Saturday, April 30, 2011

As You Wish, by Jackson Pearce

After Viola discovers that her best friend and ex-boyfriend Lawrence is gay, she feels alone and invisible. The solution, she is convinced, is to find a way to get over Lawrence entirely and find someone new. If she could pull that off, life would be so much better!

So, when a jinn (a genie) shows up and grants her three wishes, it might well seem like a perfect solution. However, Viola is smart enough to realize that she cannot simply wish herself to happiness. In fact, she finds it difficult (if not impossible) to imagine a set of wishes she truly wants. But a strange thing happens: the longer it takes her to decide three things to wish for, the more clearer she becomes about how to achieve happiness. Ironically, it will come to depend on her ability to not use up those wishes. A battle of wills erupts with surprising consequences all round.

A fascinating twist on the Aladdin story. Pearce has fun reimagining the story as a more blatant exploration of adolescent identity and self-discovery than the traditional tale allows. All well and good and it might have made a memorable riff. The ingredients are all in place for a fable about how happiness truly comes from within. But somewhere along the way, Pearce decided that that wasn't the book that she wanted to write. Instead, she plunges midway into a more traditional romance. This is unexpected and will appeal to a particular audience, but seemed like a waste of a good story to me.

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