Title: As You Wish
Author: Chelsea Sedoti
Expected Publication Date: January 02, 2018
Rating: 2.5 Stars
I received an ARC copy of As You Wish in exchange for a brutally honest review. Many thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for this advanced copy that is expected to be released January 02, 2018.
Dear fellow Babblers,
I got approved just last week for 16 ARCs and I decided to begin with As You Wish for no other reason than, um, hello!!! A book about wishes and their risks? Who doesn’t want to read about wishes? After reading this book I’m now that victim. That being said, I’m totally stoked to present to you As You Wish, a brutally honest review for a brutally unsatisfying narrative…
What if you could ask for anything- and get it?
In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.
Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.
As You Wish takes place in an idle and depressing small town called Madison on the outskirts of Las Vegas. It’s buried deep in the Mojave Desert and its residents keep a magical secret which causes them to discourage visitors and newcomers to the town – not that anyone would want to enter that hot, dust, and tainted town anyhow. On the day of their eighteenth birthday each resident, upon having their wish formally approved by the towns mayor visit a dark, dense, yet possibly detrimental cave which will grant them one very special wish of their own choosing. Some wish for money. Others wish for beauty. The reckless wish for an endless supply of drugs. The humble wish for others’ health. What do all the wishers have in common, they never end up satisfied with their one wish – there is always something that could have been better, but they only realize this days, sometimes years, later. Following this special day, each moment, day, year of the residents lives blurs into one another as a banal routine envelops them into the mysteriously inescapable town. Along comes Eldon and the enchantment the town holds so dear to it gets carried away by the desert heat…
Eldon, our protagonist, is a selfish brute whose eighteenth birthday is swiftly approaching. Unlike most of Madison’s residents Eldon is not looking forward to this day because rather than feeling the magic and liberation that the day will hold, struggles to decide what he will wish for. Rather than feeling the infinite possibilities as something advantageous, views them as utterly restricting. He knows that no matter what he chooses and whether he even decides to wish or not he will be left feeling regret and this regret will follow him for the rest of his life.
The entire novel is a countdown of the thirty days leading up to Eldon’s birthday with multiple pauses in narration for segments of his written “Wish Diary” in which he documents the wishes of others and their unhappiness with their reflected lives because of their wish.
The premise is both enchanting and fascinating, yet poorly illustrated. For one thing, where is the plot exactly? Nothing really seems to, in the truest sense of the word, happen. Every chapter consists of Eldon’s consistent complaints and confessions to his own selfish, yet indifferent feelings towards others. He critiques his family and friends and only after a confrontation, often physical, does he realize that he is at fault. He watches the town from an external perspective and passes judgements along to those around him without seeming to feel any emotional connection to anything or anyone, except for his sister, Ebba. He laments over Ebba who sits in a comma at a nursing home and is likely to never wake up. There are constant mentions to this mysterious sister all through the novel making her seem more like a spirit living and guiding Eldon’s every thought, action and feeling rather than a physical being within the space of the story.
Also, this book is over 400 pages of, in essence, the same thing. Each chapter is a variation of Eldon’s bitterness towards the logic of the town he grew up in with few progressions being made to his persona. He knows and often even mentions how much of a total douche bag he is, but he never seems to change. Sure he ends up destroying Madison’s secret and thus marking a pivotal moment in the town’s history, but very little, if anything of him changes. Additionally, the novel addresses way too many taboo topics such as abuse, God, and sexual orientation that deter away from the narrative into a risky ideological territory which seems to be left open in the story only to arrive at yet another.
Despite the whimsical and potentially mind-blowing tone that could have been absorbed into the novel, I’m left to give it a flat 2.5 stars because of the way in which it was written. All the work’s ideas and philosophical meanderings seem to become sacrificed for a degrading and disturbing style.
Would I recommend this to a friend? Yes just to show that just because a premise is genius does not mean the end product, the written book, will be reflected… Comments? Questions? Care for a heart-to-heart bookish chit chat? Send me a babble below!
(Book image credits go to Goodreads)