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WHAT YOU WISH FOR
St. Martin’s Press
July 14, 2020
Samantha Casey is currently living her dream life as a quirky and fun librarian at a wonderful elementary school where her coworkers feel like family. But when tragedy strikes and the school is forced to find a new principal, the last thing she expects is her former crush, Duncan Carpenter, to show up as the replacement. At first she’s worried all her old amorous feelings will come flooding back, but within minutes it’s clear that this isn’t the same lovable Duncan she once adored from afar. Instead, now he’s stern, demanding, and unyielding, and shows no interest in getting to know his new employees or students at all.
From the first day, Duncan sets out to remove all potential hazards and distractions at the school. Bright murals are painted over, field trips are cancelled, and strict security measures are put in place. Samantha has no idea what happened to the old Duncan, but she’s determined to stop her school from becoming a sterile prison. Time to keep her friends close and her enemies closer.
I can’t even begin to describe how ecstatic I was to get approved for this title early. I love Katherine Center, and her books are usually guaranteed four- or five-star reads for me. I wish I could say that I loved What You Wish For, but I just didn’t. Before I say anything, let me point out that this book is wildly popular on Goodreads and Instagram, and most people LOVE it. Even I have to admit that the 30% of the book that focuses on the development of a deep relationship between Samantha and Duncan is perfect. Unfortunately, though, that fantastic 30% couldn’t make up for the less than stellar remaining 70%.
I’m not sure if I’m just a little too old for characters like these, but my main problem with the book is Samantha. As far as I’m concerned she’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute she’s completely sweet, rational, and empathetic, and the next minute she’s…jumping off a pier at night because she’s, uh, a little sad and disappointed. (In fact, she does a lot of physical running away when she’s upset in this one.) I can understand a few major emotional swings in a story, but, good grief, she’s all over the place. Hers are not the actions of a calm, responsible adult—let alone an adult who is in charge of children on a daily basis.
And that was another big problem for me—how unbelievable the school environment was in the story. I volunteer at my kids’s elementary school a lot, and so many things in this book would never, EVER happen—especially at a school considered to be “one of the best in the country.” For starters, you can’t bring a dog to school. You definitely can’t bring a fake GUN to school either. There has never been a carpool line that lasted for an hour. There’s no money to install bullet-proof windows or doors made out of tank materials. There’s also zero research that would support turning an elementary school into a all-grey military-esque zone. It just doesn’t make sense to anyone who has worked with kids or spent any time at an elementary school whatsoever.
In short, you’re going to have to suspend belief if you want to enjoy What You Wish For even a little bit. There are some golden moments in the story, sure, but, for me, it was too over the top and unbelievable for me to really connect with it on a meaningful level. I wish I had liked it more, but, sigh, I just didn’t.
Big thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Net Galley for the ARC.