Thursday, May 9, 2013

Never Had a Friend Like Me - Review of "The Art of Wishing"

Title: The Art of Wishing
Author: Lindsay Ribar
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Year: 2013
Reading Level: Age 15 and up

Synopsis (from Goodreads) -

He can grant her wishes, but only she can save his life. 

Margo McKenna has a plan for just about everything, from landing the lead in her high school play to getting into a good college. So when she finds herself in possession of a genie's ring and the chance to make three wishes, she doesn't know what to do. Why should she put her life into someone else's hands?

But Oliver is more than just a genie -- he's also a sophomore at Margo's high school, and he's on the run from a murderer. As he and Margo grow closer, she discovers that it will take more than three wishes to save him.

A whole lot more.

My Review: 
With the oversaturation of paranormal romance in YA (and romance in general, let's face it), I was a bit reluctant to give this book a try.  I mean, you can only do the "Girl falls in love with werepig because... destiny... *twinkle, sparkle, OMG*" angle so many times before most people say "Okay, *wipes hands* we're done with this" (and by "most people," I mean me).  I mean, genies? Really?

Maybe I'm just a sucker or it had been a while since I'd read anything YA, but I decided to give this one a try.  And, funnily enough, it did not suck.  Far from it - this was one teen paranormal(ish) romance that I rather enjoyed.  Once I started it, I wanted to keep reading (and it's been a while since I had a YA book where the characters didn't leave me wanting to strangle them).

Margo is a normal teenage girl with normal teenage interests and normal teenage problems.  The most she is worried about is getting the lead in the school play, which she is a shoe-in for.  But then this timid little sophomore named Vicky gets the lead role and leaves everyone wondering why (and it's not on the merits of her singing or acting talent because she is terrible).  Turns out Vicky has a friend named Oliver who is a genie (even though he looks like a normal 15-year-old boy). Getting the part in the play was an indirect result of her second wish for people to like her.  But Vicky is unhappy with the way her wish turned out (she didn't want to suddenly become the most popular girl in school - she just wanted a few friends), so she ditches the genie's ring which Margo finds later.  Margo becomes Oliver's "master" (which is an odd term for it - and the characters even admit as much), but it turns out that there's more to genies and wishes than getting three wishes and then you're done.

The mythology of genies in this universe is really interesting and something that I was fascinated by.  Ribar's genies are shapeshifters and they can take on the form of whatever their masters are comfortable with - even down to personalities and interests.  I know - you're all thinking "Is that how Oliver gets Margo to fall in love with him?"  And if Ribar hadn't addressed that the way she did, this book would not have had the satisfying ending that it had (I don't want to spoil anything, but Margo and Oliver's discussion about that particular issue is one of the highlights of the book and made me love both those characters even more).

(And the fact that they make fun of the whole supernatural romance plot gives me so much glee that it's not even funny. The only thing that would make it better is if they had actually referenced "werepig" in their conversation, but I'm pretty sure that it's copyrighted - see link above).

One thing that bugged me, but it's something that bugs me about YA books in general is that Margo's parents are just not there.  Her parents are divorced, but they recently got back together and remarried and are on, like, their fifth honeymoon.  Which sounds strange, but I guess you have to eliminate the parents in a teen-centric book when the teen has to keep things secret from her folks, but you'd rather not make the teen an orphan.  However, Margo's relationship with her parents does play a role in the B-plot of the story, though it isn't resolved very well.  But I guess there needs to be something to do in the sequel, even though I think there's going to be plenty of that in just dealing with the genies and the fallout of the ending.  Oh well - it gave Margo a great excuse to write a song using the talent she discovered with her first wish.  I'm just hoping there will be some closure with her folks by the time the series is over ("The Rules of Remembering" is due out next year and a third as-yet-untitled novel will be released in 2015).

This book provides a nice balance of contemporary and fantasy and plenty of humor.  The characters and settings feel real and they are a delight to read.  Super-cute and super-fun and plenty of drama and adventure!  Highly recommended!

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