What You Wish For
by Katherine Center
My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Women’s fiction, romance
Sam Casey, librarian at a private elementary school, is one of many left to pick up the pieces when the school’s beloved principal and founder dies unexpectedly over the summer. But when she hears that Max’s replacement will be none other than an old crush that she remembers being an awful lot like Max, she’s partially excited for him to come, but mostly terrified that her old crush, which is really more like a full-blown obsession, for Duncan Carpenter will rear its ugly head and destroy the nice life she’s made in Galveston. So it’s kind of a blessing when Duncan turns out to have drastically changed since she saw him. A blessing that becomes a curse when he starts changing everything she loves about the school–everything Max built and stood for.
There was a lot about this book that I wasn’t able to connect with, like the hidden pasts of both of the MCs and Sam’s life-altering obsession with Duncan. However, I think it’s saying something that, even still, I enjoyed the overall story. The burdens and joys the characters went through felt real. Things didn’t fall into place easily–they were really worked for.
I strongly suspected Duncan’s secret based on the way he was acting; in fact, I’d imagine most would. But that didn’t make it any less heart-breaking when it was revealed. Sam’s secret seemed to pale in comparison to his, but I don’t think that’s really fair to her. However, considering the way she spoke and acted throughout the book, she greatly annoyed me near the end. I think that part may have been a bit overdone, but at the same time, I can’t say a real person wouldn’t have acted just like that. Trauma can affect people in a lot of ways.
Like with the previous book of this author’s that I read, Things You Save in a Fire, I liked the slow burn to the romance and the fact that it wasn’t so in-your-face as it so often is in these types of books. It was maybe a little bit anticlimactic at the end, but it didn’t leave me disappointed. For those who want to know about how clean a book is before reading–it’s light on language (but with a couple of f-words), and there is more physical interaction and description than I prefer, but not enough to make me too uncomfortable. (Not even to the detail of what I remember from Things You Save in a Fire.)
The overall theme in this book, as many others have mentioned, is the idea of choosing joy. While that theme didn’t really come up until the second half or so of the book, it is heavily focused on in that latter half (not in a bad way). Of course that is always easier said than done, as Sam herself makes clear. I have found that following and trusting God, the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), is the only way I’ve ever had true and lasting peace and joy. I appreciated the message here, though as a Christian, I found it a bit empty. This did not factor into my rating, though, and I do recommend this book for anyone looking for a sweet, goofy, mostly uplifting romance (I only say “mostly” because there is definitely some darkness along the way).
Thank you so much to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me a copy of this book to review!
Find out more about What You Wish For
If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!