What: How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
Who: HMH Books for Young Readers
When: May 2nd 2017
How: A copy of this novel was provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for review via Edelweiss.
All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn’t have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.
Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace’s mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.
I wanted to love this book, I really did. I had heard so many wonderful things about it from reviewers and readers that I trust. But, sadly, this book just wasn’t for me. I had a few thoughts when reading How to Make a Wish, and here they are:
1) I hated Maggie, Grace’s mum. She was a horrible, emotionally abusive, woman-child of a parent. Throughout How to Make a Wish she did approximately one nice thing for her daughter, and the rest of the time she was pulling truly terrible shit.
And I think the worst part is that no one did anything about it. Grace didn’t do anything about it, Eva and Luca didn’t do anything about it, Luca’s mum didn’t do anything about it. They all just let her get away with every awful thing that she did.
I think human beings have thresholds. And I think that threshold maintains itself for a long time because people can make excuses for the ones they love, and hold the nice things that they do for them close to their heart to make up for the bad things. But we all still have a threshold. Grace didn’t seem to have a threshold at all, which didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Like I said before, her mother did one nice thing for Grace in the whole book, so it’s not like Grace could tell herself that Maggie was doing nice things, as well. There was literally nothing for her to make believe that made up for all the horrible shit that Maggie pulled. She just kept forgiving her, and kept making excuses.
And I kind of get that this might have been the way things played out because the big climax of the book is about Grace learning that she needs to do things for herself rather than Maggie but this came at around 95%. That was too late. It was too late because I’d read 95% of a book where Grace was making excuses and forgiving her mum and then suddenly with five percent left she makes a change. It was too late because it happened so fast, and a little too perfect-timing-ly.
2) Grace wasn’t a very developed character. She’s supposed to be this amazing pianist, and piano playing is supposed to be this incredibly important thing to her. And the first time she plays is halfway through the novel. And then there’s maybe three other scenes where she’s playing. To be entirely honest, I felt like piano was this thing that was supposed to matter to Grace to make her a more three dimensional character but it didn’t really work out.
Apart from that, she doesn’t have any other passions. There was nothing about the music she likes, the books, the TV shows, the movies, the clothes, the hobbies. There was just the piano. And even then that piano aspect wasn’t exactly fleshed out.
3) I both liked and disliked the ship. Grace makes it very clear to Eva early on that Eva hanging out with Maggie makes her upset and angry and hurt. She doesn’t say it though words, but after every time she sees Eva and Maggie hanging out she’s upset and angry and hurt.
I thought it was super naïve and kind of bullshit that Eva didn’t notice this. And that Grace let it happen in the first place. I understand why she cared later on, but when she’d known Eva for like five minutes and was caring so much about her healing that she was willing to put that above the hurt she was feeling because of the way Maggie was treating her? That felt a little too farfetched. You don’t hold some new girl’s feelings in such high regard.
And then Eva pulled the most dreaded “my mum is dead and yours alive so you don’t get to complain” card. Which I despise. Maggie is hardly a mother at all, and has spent Grace’s entire life emotionally abusing her, moving her from place to place, putting her in dangerous situations. Comparing that to a loving mother who had a stable job and home, and who supported Eva’s dreams and ambitions is just outright bullshit.
Though, there were some positives about their relationship, as well. I liked how Eva didn’t pull crap because she’s gay and Grace is bi. I liked how they were a interracial couple (Grace is white and Eva is black). I liked how they supported each other (most of the time). I liked how Eva wasn’t afraid to be honest. I liked how it moved from a kind of instant connection to more of a slow burn relationship. I liked how they were intimate, both emotionally and physically.
4) The secondary characters were kind of filler.
Luca, Grace’s best friend, practically disappears for half the novel after they have a fight. And during that time Grace spends all her moments with Eva. And then they kind of just make up without any conversation about why they weren’t talking to begin with, which just made the whole thing feel like a plot device for Grace to spend more time with Eva without having to make time for her best friend, as well.
Jay, the ex-boyfriend who Grace now lives with, is supposed to be this horrible person. He posted sexts between him and Grace on Tumblr after she broke up with him. But then he actually legitimately cares about Grace, and wants her to be okay, and drives a really long way to come and pick her up when she has no one else. I feel like his character was so contradictory. Because you wouldn’t ever forgive someone who bullied you like that. But Grace kind of does because of the way he is when she lives with him. It’s just hard to reconcile these two things, really.
Emmy, Luca’s mom, was supposed to be this second mother figure to Grace but we hardly ever see their relationship in action. And I don’t really have much respect for a grown woman who would let a teenager be in Grace’s situation without doing anything except make half-hearted offers of different living arrangements and give them twenty dollars every now and then.
So, these were my thoughts. I’m not lying when I say I wanted to love How to Make a Wish. But these aspects really got to me, and I just couldn’t fall in love with it.
© 2017, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warnings: use of ableist language, online bullying, father killed in action, reference to death of a parent via operation complication (infection), absent father, emotional abuse, homophobia, alcoholic parent, non-fatal car crash (drink driving), reference to romantic cheating, reference to suicide, and stealing (parent steals child’s money) in this novel