Published: 2 January 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Category: Young Adult/Fantasy
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.
Rating: 1 Star
Some spoilers ahead, be warned!
A town where wishes can actually come true. On the surface it sounds fantastic, but I’ve seen enough Twilight Zone to know that it isn’t going to be as great as all that.
The main character Eldon is struggling with his wish decision because his family has suffered for it. The whole town has some story or other about wishes gone wrong, but for Eldon, it’s to do with his mother wishing his father to fall in love with her, resulting in him never being able to love with someone else. His sister is in a coma in another city and his parents are pressuring him to use his wish to heal her. Tragedy and an insane amount of pressure are no picnic, but while reading I couldn’t figure out whether Eldon was an asshole simply because of these circumstances or because that’s just who he was.
Eldon plays God with his wish, thinking he knows what’s best for everyone when he ends the cycle of wishes with his own. Were there consequences to the wishes, some careless ones made and some even bad? Of course and I can admit that, but Eldon’s pompous attitude that he knew better made me hate him at the end. He had no right to make this decision for everyone. Yes he was under pressure and no his parents shouldn’t have done that to him, but I don’t see it as a reason, just an excuse for him to hide behind.
Given his anger throughout the book, at his parents and the whole wish system, I thought the ending was fairly obvious with regards to his choice and yet I still hoped for more. I thought he might grow, might learn something beyond his own narrow view, but I’m not sure he did.
In the book, there are some chapters that recount the wishes of other citizens. Eldon asks about them so he can make sure his own choice is the right one. One of the stories about a man named Gil disturbed me for the content itself and for the implications. Gil came of age in the 1970’s, not a great time for someone like him. He’s gay and he knows it, but he struggles with it because the people in town are not as open-minded as you’d think, considering the wishes and all.
So what does he wish for? He wishes for all of his homosexual feelings to go away. This backfires when he realizes that wishing away his liking boys doesn’t mean he’ll automatically like girls. This wish, to Gil, backfired and made him lonely and sad and empty. That’s a horrible way to look at it because it makes it sound like people that are asexual are missing something in their lives when that’s not true. It disgusted me, to be honest, and as this occurred around 37%, made me dread the rest of the book. If Eldon is insufferable and the author is making things like this happen to the characters, then what hell can I expect next?
Well, that turned out to be a girl named Penelope, after finding out that a classmate, Fletcher, has tried to commit suicide, wishes for his suicide to fail. In this town, though, that doesn’t mean just the most recent attempt; it means all of them. That was not her decision to make. It reminds me of a quote, oddly enough, from The Incredibles: “You didn’t save my life, you ruined my death.” She took away his free will, which seems to be a real problem with the people in this town. They make wishes that end up affecting others lives and that, maybe, is one of the most horrible facets of the book of all.
With an insufferable narrator, some problematic content, and pacing that was slower than molasses, I didn’t like this book much at all, which was disappointing because the premise had so much possibility.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.