Saturday, May 12, 2018

As You Wish, by Chelsea Sedoti

Out in the Mojave, the town of Madison is nothing very special.  Folks drive through it quickly on their way to Area 51 to see the UFOs.  But the town is hiding a secret:  there is a cave where you can go on your eighteenth birthday and have your greatest wish granted.  It's a defining part of life growing up in the town and kids plan out what they are going to wish for for years.  The thing is that you need to be careful what you wish for!

As he approaches his eighteenth birthday, Eldon isn't really sure what he wants his wish to be.  When he looks around, he sees that wishes rarely improve anything.  In fact, it seems that no matter how careful people are, the wish always ends up making people's lives worse.  Long-term happiness seems to have little to do with wishes.  The truth is that just about everyone ends up stuck out here, never really making anything of their lives.

The novel's most interesting observations are about the wishes themselves, where Sedoti explores why wishing for fame or love or money or long life or any of the other obvious choices never really works out the way you thought it would.  These are thought provoking digressions and one wishes that there were more of them, especially as the rest of the novel drags.  Much of the blame for that falls on the protagonist.  Eldon is not a captivating narrator.  A bit coarse and unsympathetic, he is about as interesting as the landscape.  The novel's length is also a strike against it.  The story's true theme -- about life's success coming from within -- is established pretty quickly and didn't need 400+ pages to be developed.

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