Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this last Wednesday of May? Actually, it’s the last day of May in general. Time flies, I suppose. Things here are fine, so let’s get to what this post is about. It’s book review time! I was looking for something in the fantasy vein, but the genres listed on NetGalley lied to me. It happens sometimes. The book is fantastical in the sense that these things don’t happen, but that’s about it. Mostly it’s regular old fiction with a little zest. Anyway, The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer was released yesterday (May 30th) from Ballantine Books. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s do the thing!
The Wishing Game follows Lucy Hart as she struggles to make her dreams come true, the biggest of which is adopting Christopher. When everything seems impossible, she receives an invitation to her favorite childhood author’s private island to participate in a potentially life changing contest. Can she win against the other contestants? Can she face her fears? Can she resist the brooding artist who lives on the island with the author? Will all her wishes come true?
There’s definitely a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory vibe, but without the fantasy elements. More of a made-for-adults version (not the smutty kind of adult, just the kind of book kids wouldn’t appreciate as much). The golden ticket is a blue envelope and the factory is an island off the coast of Maine with a sad little amusement park that was never finished for reasons you’ll find out if you read it. Honestly, it’s pretty neat because it’s tied in with a (fictional) series of children’s books. The books have fantasy elements, but the novel itself reminds me more of a slightly dark Hallmark movie. Everything could potentially happen in the real world.
As far as the plot goes, it’s predictable, but that makes it comforting. You have to have a couple of miserable losses to make the wins seem earned. There’s a bit of romance just to spice things up. And the author dude is super rich and benevolent, so you know everyone is going to win in the end somehow, even though it might not be what they thought they wanted. There are plenty of trials along the way and everyone has their own fears to face. It’s well paced and despite the predictability, it’s intriguing.
The characters are mostly well rounded. Lucy is likeable and relatable for the most part. Her relationship with her sister felt really cringe-y until it’s finally revealed what her sister did. I feel like that reveal could’ve been made earlier and it would’ve helped a lot. Up until it comes out, Lucy comes off as selfish and ableist in a way and I didn’t want to feel that way about her. Especially when it was the fact that her sister was a dick rather than the fact that she was sick that caused everything. Anyway… Christopher’s age is difficult to pinpoint in the beginning. It seems like he’s 12 or 13 at first, but then he’s 7, which is a little jarring, but he finally settles into his age. Hugo is my favorite, of course. And Jack is interesting. I did wish that the other contestants were fleshed out better. They felt like they could’ve been anyone really, like they were just cardboard placeholders basically. And the potential bad guy just disappears, so that was awkward. But mostly the people were cool.
And the writing was nice. It made for a quick read. I actually finished it like two weeks early, so it went surprisingly fast. And I kept thinking about it for a couple of days afterward, but I haven’t thought about it much since. I guess that means it’s one of those books I enjoyed in the moment, but won’t remember much of a few months from now, which isn’t a bad thing.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed The Wishing Game despite the fact that it wasn’t what I was expecting. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for more books by Meg Shaffer.
Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. It was fun and if you enjoyed stuff like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a kid, you’ll probably like this book.