Friday, December 31, 2010
You Wish, by Mandy Hubbard
For her 16th birthday, Kayla's mother insists on throwing a huge sweet sixteen bash, complete with a DJ and a huge pink cake. Kayla, however, isn't that kind of girl. She's embarrassed by the whole event and would rather hide within herself. When forced to make a wish in front of party guests whom she doesn't even know, she vows that she'd like to finally have her prior birthday wishes come true, since they never seem to do so.
The next morning, a life-sized bright pink My Little Pony shows up at her home, followed in the days that follow by endless gumballs, (Raggedy) Ann brought to life, and even a very plastic self-absorbed hunk named Ken in a convertible. Yes, her birthday wishes from all of the years past appear to actually be coming true! It's a bit awkward, but the worst is yet to come. Last year, Kayla wished that Ben would kiss her, but Ben is her BFF's boyfriend now!
From that synopsis, you get an impression that this is a fairly silly vapid book, and when I started to read it, I honestly didn't hold out a lot of hope for it. I figured it would be cute fluff. While you could read it that way, I found that as I did so that the story was actually much more nuanced. Somewhere amidst all of these childhood wishes coming true, Hubbard has some amazing things to say about growing up. These wishes, she argues, are not simply isolated and forgotten parts of our past to be ashamed of, but a piece of what we are today. They say a lot about who we become and as Kayla comes to appreciate and embrace her past, she is able to be at peace with her present. And so, while being reminded that we once wished for a real live pink pony of our own might seem embarrassingly infantile, it can't really be separated from the more serious grown up (or teen, for that matter) that we become.
It was this observation (and many other similar ones made alongside it) that showed me that this extremely funny book had a serious core to it. While tongue is firmly in cheek, Hubbard uses a wonderful choice of shared cultural icons (from Ken dolls to the joy of snow) that most any reader can relate to and through them understand her much deeper message. One of the more surprising books I've read this year and a wonderful way to wrap up the year.