By the end of the first chapter, I was almost certain this book was going to be five stars. And, this definitely came true.
Chelsea Sedoti’s As You Wish is a profound coming-of-age novel about self-discovery, wishing, and finding your path in life. Set in a small desert town called Madison in the Mojave Desert, As You Wish tells the story of a teenage boy named Eldon.
Madison isn’t just any ordinary town, despite what they might want you to believe. They hide secrets from tourists who pass through, hoping to see some sort of extraterrestrial life.
In Madison, every resident receives a wish on their eighteenth birthday. The origins of wishing are not fully clear, nor is how the process works, but countless generations of Madison residents have wished in the Wishing Cave as they recreate the accounts of the original wisher.
There are rules associated with wishing, though why they’re there and if they actually are true is something you’ll just have to read to find out.
Eldon doesn’t know what he wants to wish for. It hasn’t been easy for him, not with his sister in a coma and his mom hounding him to wish for unlimited money. Wishing is all everyone in Madison ever talks about, and he has had eighteen years to think about it and still is unsure of what to do.
As he thinks more and more about his wish, Eldon starts to see the true effects of the wishes on the small town of Madison.
Eldon’s journey is a poignant one that will make the reader think about what it means to wish and how it can affect an individual and a society. Here’s the official summary:
What if you could ask for anything- and get it?
In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.
Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.
Although my prediction might have seemed a little presumptuous, I could tell by the way Sedoti began to weave in the plot and craft such a unique voice for Eldon during the three minutes of gas filling in the first few pages that this was going to be a very enjoyable read for me. As long as Sedoti didn’t screw up the ending or include any slurs against minorities, I was ready to preorder this novel.
And, Sedoti pulled through with flying colors.
Eldon is a flawed character. He’s anything but perfect–not knowing what he wants to do with his life and how he wants to use his wish.
As I’ve said in previous reviews, the line between character flaws and likeability is a fine one. I think Eldon definitely leans more towards the flawed side, but I still really liked his character.
I’ll write a blog post about this one day, but YA literature is overrun by the need for the main characters to be likeable, but that’s not the case in most literature. The main characters aren’t always partially likeable in real life, and this is something that’s definitely glossed over in YA lit.
Nevertheless, I think Eldon is a very complex character, and his good qualities still shined through.
He cares for his sister and feels guilt for when he does something wrong, although he doesn’t always acknowledge this. It shows how he isn’t a completely hopeless case as he continues to feel the guilt, whether it’s when he blows off his mother or tricks the principal, Mr. Wakefield.
Eldon still has a long list of flaws, arrogant and careless as he goes to parties and engages with multiple girls. He’s inobservant, especially when it comes to his best friend Merrill, and he has no sense of what he wants to do in the future.
In all honestly, he’s quite the asshole. He’s got a short temper and is also very selfish and self-centered, just look at his ex-girlfriend, Juniper.
All of this makes Eldon sound like a pretty bad character, but throughout the novel I saw him change and slowly realize that he’s been going about things wrong.
The largest change in his character comes during the end of the novel, but I enjoyed seeing the little things, like when he visited his sister.
I think the plot was structured well, though it definitely picked up in the last few chapters. I’m a person who doesn’t mind reading slower paced books, which it is during the first half (this book is 400 something pages) and so a lot of time was put into shaping Eldon’s character, which I enjoyed.
Either way, the plot was formed well and there was foreshadowing to what would happen during the ending. I enjoyed the plot twists as they were fully justified and helped further the plot rather than drag it along.
I would classify this as a contemporary with mild magical realism elements to it, or, as my Spanish teacher would say, “¡El realismo mágico!” (We’re reading Jorge Luis Borges’ work in class).
It took me a while to decide whether I should dub this magical realism or not, but in the end I decided it fell under the category as magical realism is when the magical seems normal to people. A lot of books are falsely categorized as magical realism, but As You Wish definitely falls in the category.
Sedoti forms the town of Madison into an almost cult-like group of people whose lives center around wishes. The story isn’t just about Eldon, there are short chapters telling the stories of other people in the town and how their wishes affected their lives.
Whether it’s Barnaby who accidentally made the wrong wish, or Mayor Fontaine and his sleazy wish, or other people in the town.
These chapters are a lot like The Sun Is Also a Star when there are chapters about other people, for instance Irene the security guard.
I enjoyed reading this and it made it not just the story of Eldon, but of the whole town.
There is little to no romance in this book as it’s more of a coming of age novel rather than a romance. Mentions of sex and more mature topics are referenced from time to time but it’s not the main focus of the novel.
I didn’t not like anything about this book, and I think it was executed nearly perfectly. It’s important to remember that not all main characters have to be likeable, they just have to change. I found Eldon likeable enough because I could relate to him, but I know some people might not connect with his character.
All in all, I enjoyed reading As You Wish as it was a thought provoking novel about a flawed boy figuring out his life. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a meaningful read with some magical aspects to it and who doesn’t mind some snark and anger and complexity to the main character.
I can’t wait for this to come out as I will be purchasing a hardback copy (& the cover is gorgeous! The gold on the cover is stunning!) to add to my bookshelf!
As You Wish comes out on January 2nd, 2018 & you can preorder it now!
I’ll end with a quote from the digital review copy (subject to change in the published version):
“‘That will be your downfall. You’re looking for someone else to save you, when really, we can only ever save ourselves.'”
Thank you to NetGalley / Sourcebooks FIRE for providing me with a digital review copy of As You Wish in exchange for an honest review!
Are you excited to preorder this novel? Feel free to leave your thoughts below!