On the outskirts of Las Vegas, in the Mojave desert, there lays a small town called Madison - where almost nothing exciting ever happens. Everyone knows everyone else's business, there's one park that's usually left empty, there aren't any churches since the people of Madison really only follow their own religion and everyone always seems to get 'stuck' living there; its a small, dusty, hot and desolate place located in the middle of no where. But its one with a very, very big and interesting secret.
Tons of tourists pass through on their way to visit places such as area 51 in search of extraterrestrial phenomenon, never realizing that this bleak town is where the magic really is. Which is just fine to the people of Madison - while they're friendly enough, they aren't exactly inviting towards outsiders. In fact, the residents work extra hard to keep tourists uninterested in staying longer than need be, in hopes of keeping their secret to themselves.
On everyone's 18th birthday, the residents of Madison get a very special gift: they get to have one wish (any wish, so long as it keeps to the rules) come true. The whole town is built around the wish cave - where all the magic happens. Children are raised to think up the perfect wish, high schoolers attend wish classes, teenagers receive wish counseling and on and on. Instead of dreaming up and working towards their futures - they're wishing them. Once their wish day comes, however, they don't have anything else to look forward to besides dealing with the consequences of their wish.
That's where Eldon Wilkes comes in. He and his friends are all seniors now, but instead of looking towards graduation, they're all anticipating (and some are even dreading) their wish day. Despite having his whole life to come up with his perfect wish, Eldon still has no clue of what to wish for. He could wish for money to (maybe) save his sister, for his ex-girlfriend to love him, for his uncle to live a sober life, or even for his popularity back that he lost due to other wishers - but none of those things seem right to him. With the help of his friends, Eldon does some soul searching and works on his "wish project" by interviewing other wishers and learning the outcomes of the choices they made. It isn't until he hits rock bottom that he finally knows what to wish for. Every action has consequences, and the choices you make can effect those around you. How will Eldon's wish effect him and the people of Madison?
As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti is a YA magical surrealism story about making wishes and what its like to have them come true. Since this is YA I feel I should warn everyone that this story includes mentions of suicide, substance abuse, and some wishes even grant characters power over others' free will (like forcing someone to be in love with you).
The writing was easy to follow but the pacing was extremely slow, and like I said not a lot happens in Madison. It took me a long time to read this book and there were a few times I almost gave up on it. The world building was just alright, but there was a lot that was left unexplained: how or why did the wish cave come about? When was it discovered and how long has it been going on? Who made or figured out the wishing rules? No one seemed to know anything about it, which was frustrating.
There wasnt very much character depth, either. The most in depth character we get is Eldon, but he was such an unlikable one at times that not even his tragic story really made me feel for him. He acts with out thinking, he's harsh to everyone around him, he's sometimes violent and despite all the the other things everyone else is going through he really only thinks about himself. I wouldn't mind all that if he actually showed character growth and we got to see him become a better person, but that never happens. By the end of the story its implied that he's going to try to make a change - but its never actually seen. The people closest to him were still basically calling him a jerk and pointing out his immature behavior at 96% into the book. He doesn't change and doesn't really show that he's learned anything from what he goes through.
Another character that I really didn't like was Eldon's mother. She wished for his father to love her when he wasn't even attracted to her beforehand. I can sort of understand a young person making a selfish mistake like that... But later on she apparently falls out of love with her husband and makes life even harder for him because of it. Then, when Eldon's younger sister gets injured in an accident, she tries manipulating her son into making a hopeless wish to save her life. Not only does she put that weight on his shoulders, but she crushes him by saying that if he doesn't make that wish then he'll be responsible for her death. Out of everyone in the world - his sister means the most to him, so that really hit him hard. She was so controlling and manipulative that she could be considered abusive, and her "apology" at the end doesn't make up for any of it.
I did like Eldon's father, his best friend Merrill, and other friends Norie and Penelope. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to them, so I never really felt connected to any of the characters. Mostly, I just either felt bad for them or hated them.
I did really enjoy the premise of the book. The idea of being able to make any wish you have come true seemed like it could make an interesting story. It was fun to see how different characters made their wish, learn why they wished for those things and to see how they felt about them afterwards. It made me think about what sort of wish I would make if I was given the chance and imagine what the outcome of my choice might look like. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to the plot of the story. The book follows the MC as he thinks up what to wish for and complains about the things that bother him. The entire story just drags up until he makes his wish and we don't even really get to see what happens afterwards. I would have maybe liked if there was an epilogue where we get to see the effects of his wish and (hopefully) how he changed into a better person... But I'm not sure that I could have read much more.
Overall, this story wasn't for me. I didn't hate it - there were a (very) few things I did enjoy, but mostly it just frustrated me. Every time something interesting happened the story dropped back down to being dull again. It was long, boring and I just couldn't connect to or enjoy any of the characters.
**** I received an eBook copy of this title via Netgally in exchange for a honest review. ****