Sunday, August 31, 2014

I Can't Just Pull Wishes Out of Thin Air, You Know

The Art of Wishing
~The Art of Wishing~
The Art of Wishing
Book 1

By Lindsay Ribar
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Margo McKenna has a plan for just about everything, from landing the lead in her high school play to getting into a good college. So when she finds herself in possession of a genie's ring and the chance to make three wishes, she doesn't know what to do. Why should she put her life into someone else's hands?

But Oliver is more than just a genie—he's also a sophomore at Margo's high school, and he's on the run from a murderer. As he and Margo grow closer, she discovers that it will take more than three wishes to save him.

A whole lot more.

Confession time. The sole reason I picked up this book was to read it for/with Booze Your Own Adventure's book club. A few weeks ago they mentioned that they were going to talk with author Lindsay Ribar (SPOILERS INCLUDED) about her debut, The Art of Wishing, and recently released sequel, The Fourth Wish. And, while I'm a bit late to the party, I figured I might as well dig in and see what this YA paranormal romance genie series had.

I kinda wish I had read this before Robin Williams' passing.

Margo was fun to read. She could easily read like the typical snarky modern heroine but there was enough other to her that she was still interesting to read. Despite being a stellar musical (think Into the Woods or Sweeney Todd) performer and singer/songwriter, she's still mostly introverted, which I hear is actually more typical of great musicians than you might think. She's also got parents who constantly come and go on honeymoon after honeymoon.

Actually, Margo's issues with and dealings with her parents was one of the best parts of the book for me. Not only are there reasons for the parents' limited involvement with Margo, but she actually addresses the problems she has with those reasons. She reacts to her parents' behavior and her imperfect relationship with them. They're not just some prop that says, "Listen here, you can't go to the ball because we must provide conflict," but they're people Margo has to live with, flaws and baggage included. There's actually one line I love in reference to them; Margo's just come home from rehearsal and her first kiss with her new bf and sees lights on in the kitchen:
Earth to Margo[...]. You do actually have a life beyond rehearsals and music and boys. [pg 111]
Yeah, yeah she does. And that's what made reading her such a nice change from some of the paranormal romance lately. With Margo I felt like I was reading about a person who discovers magic exists in her reality, not someone thrown into a new reality. The paranormal elements don't rewrite normalcy, like suddenly people accept the main character's complete change of routine/personality/social interaction as nothing new, but rather the paranormal elements' clash with normalcy is what adds conflict to her story.

And one last quick aside about Margo. I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of "Margo" as a name. But with the story told in first person from her point of view, the name is not actually written all that much. So if you find the name as unbelievable as I do for modern high school circles, then at least it's not shoved in our face over and over.

Now on to that paranormal element I was talking about. Oliver is a little hard to get a handle on. He's witty, kinda charming, mostly sweet and soft-spoken. He had a couple of nice quirks to him, like being a photography buff, that fleshed him out a little, and I liked that he had Margo's best wishes in mind. Here's the thing though: he's a genie. Which means his goal is to grant his master's every wish. Being a genie also allows him a form of mind-reading so that he can better grant his master's wishes. So you've got a guy whose sole purpose is granting our heroine's every desire as the romantic interest. Am I the only one who sees an issue here?


I won't go into details on how it addresses it, as that's a huge part of the conflict down the road, but the fact that it was even mentioned at all was SO AMAZING to read. Magic doesn't make it okay, if anything it makes things much more complicated. And I loved that about the story. THEY EVEN ADDRESS THE WHOLE MAGIC CREATURE AGE THING:
       "Also, technically I'm a teensy bit older than most sophomores."
       "Oh, god, I knew it," I moaned, covering my face with my hands. "I mean, I didn't really, but you've been dropping hint after hint after hint, and I should have known. I really should have. Oh god. I'm one of those girls."
       "What girls?" he asked, perplexed.
       "Those girls. The ones in all those books and TV shows. Some dumb high school girl falls in love with some supernatural guy, and he's all, 'Behold, I am five million years old!' and she's all, 'Oh my god, how can you ever love pathetic little me!' and he's like, 'Because of my destiny!' or whatever. It's just so...ew. You know?"[pg 177-178]
There's about a page and a half more on the age thing, plus a lot of pages AND TIME spent on some of genies' other quirks. Sorry if the caps are getting obnoxious, but guys, this felt really, really great to have addressed in a YA paranormal romance. Not only did I have an icky feeling about the love interest, but the author did too. And she addressed in the story why there should be an ick factor. I cannot tell you how happy I was, but let's just say there was much fist pumping.

Yet another thing I had a happy double take with was the villain. Xavier does a lot of things that seem completely crazy, but then you find out there was reason to his madness and you're kinda blown away. Like stabbing Margo. Not only does it intimidate her and disable her somewhat, but there's also an even more crafty and villainous motive to it. And I loved that he worked like that. Yes, he does serve as the trope of the big bad who wants to kill our main love interest, thereby introducing conflict in our heroine's life, but he was given more of a reason than power or revenge. And actually his reason, crazy though it might be, was a little tear-jerky. I may not have empathized with him, but I at least sympathized a little.

And then there's that ending. This book doesn't end as much as it segues into its sequel The Fourth Wish. There is no dénouement, there's simply the climax and a 'let's go!' that might as well read To Be Continued. I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad thing, but I had a problem with how much was unresolved. And there is a TON left unresolved. I'm very hopeful for the sequel and luckily I have it right next to me to continue, but for anyone looking for a stand-alone, don't even think about it.

Overall, The Art of Wishing was fun to read and had a lot of unexpected turns that kept me engaged throughout. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a new avenue of YA paranormal romance or those interested in a different, modern take on genies. There are references to Robin Williams' genie and some of the mythology concerning their "freedom" might trigger responses (my sister cried when I started recapping to her). There is minor language, some knife violence and some romantic situations which I believe puts this comfortably in high school range. So if you're looking for a series with a good sense of itself and some humor and magic to boot, then definitely give The Art of Wishing a try.

Approximate Reading Time: 4 hours