Thank you to Goodreads.com and St. Martin’s Press for this ARC of Katherine Center’s What You Wish For. Sometimes it is difficult to properly rate these uncorrected proof copies because even disregarding the obvious typos, you never know exactly how much more of the writing will be cleaned up. Parts of the story needed tightening up and there were times when it was somewhat repetitive. So, I give it 4 stars for writing, and 4.5 stars for story, and 5 stars characters, and setting.
And based entirely on the story and characters, I have to say that I absolutely adored this book. The cast of lovable characters is wonderfully drawn, especially the main character, Sam, a small-town school librarian who after a life of pain and upheaval seems to have found a home at a progressive coastal school. When a blast from her past finds his way to Galveston and her school, Sam is afraid it will all fall apart and she’ll lose the only home she’s ever known. But it is so much worse than she imagined.
Though Sam can be, at times, a little slow on the uptake about others and herself, she has a delightful sense of humor, real strength, and a few thoroughly human flaws. I identified with her in a way that I’ve done with few other characters. I really don’t know if I’ve ever met a character who spoke (or even thought) so exactly what I feel inside.
As for the story, it is a sweet but not unrealistic love story – romantic love as well as love for friends who are more like family, and learning to love yourself. The setting of Galveston, TX is lovingly described so that I felt like I was there with the characters. What You Wish For has beautiful, uplifting messages about creating your own joy and learning from your past but not letting it define you.
For me, reading What You Wish For was a lot about the characters and the messages their story conveyed. There have been a few books that have struck a chord with me like this book. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by Kelly Harms, Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen, The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller, and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman are among my recent reads that have touched me as deeply as What You Wish For, particularly through the characters. They’ve also all earned a 5-star rating from me proving, I think, how important well-written, relatable characters are for good fiction.