Monday, September 8, 2014

The First Three Wishes Are Free, But If You Need a Fourth...

This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, The Art of Wishing, or don't mind knowing some spoilers for it. The Fourth Wish, however, will remain spoiler-free.

The Fourth Wish
~The Fourth Wish~
The Art of Wishing
Book 2

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

Here's what Margo McKenna knows about genies:

She's seen Aladdin more times than she can count; she's made three wishes on a magic ring; she's even fallen head over heels in love with Oliver, the cute genie whose life she saved by fighting off his archenemy. But none of this prepared her for the shock of becoming a genie herself.

At a time when she's trying to figure out who she wants to be, Margo is forced to become whomever her master wants. Everything she's taken for granted—graduating high school, going to college, performing in the school musical, even being a girl—is called into question. But she's also coming into a power she never imagined she'd have.

How will Margo reconcile who she is with what she's becoming? And where will she and Oliver stand when she's done?

After that non-ending from the last book, I was excited to dive into this one. After all, we had a new genie on the loose and I had no clue where this book was going to take her, even after watching a slightly spoilery interview with the author. So, I guess if you're looking for a new big bad to show up and the genies having to work their magic to save the world, you're going to be kinda disappointed. But if you're interested in seeing how a teen deals with a life-changing, magical decision, then you'll probably want to continue reading. I mentioned the last book had no dénouement *. Well, get ready for 350 pages of dénouement, because it's time to deal with the consequences!

Margo is a control freak with an alpha-type personality. She's never been one to care about social circles or popularity, since those are often well out of anyone's control, but when it comes to her life and how she lives it, she has a plan for just about everything. Even when it came to her wishes, she had to think for days, even weeks before she could settle on what the best three wishes could be. But then Xavier happened, forcing her to make a choice that threw all her plans out the window.

Now Margo's a genie, which means granting other people's wishes, whether she wants to or not. Not only that, but she's also forced into bodies that are pleasing to her masters. What happens when you throw a teenager, and one who craves control at that, into a completely alien and subservient situation? Needless to say, fireworks are gonna fly. I enjoyed following Margo's struggle through her normal and paranormal coming-of-age struggles, and I liked where Margo's priorities led her for the most part, especially when it came to one particular attack. She can read a bit self-centered at times, but I chalked it up to believable teenager-ness, and I'm happy to say even that was addressed/dealt with eventually. So, yes, I enjoyed living in Margo's head for a second book.

Oliver was my big unknown coming out of the last book. Would his personality change now that he couldn't read Margo's mind? How much would he—could he change for her once his vessel changed hands? Well, I'm happy to say I really liked where his character went in this book. He's still super supportive of Margo, even more so in some aspects, and most of his personality remains consistent from where we last left off. But what I liked most about him was even though he was presented as an experienced genie and Margo's only available guide to genie-dom, he didn't automatically have all the answers. He wasn't infallible, and his word wasn't law. In other words, Oliver has quickly moved up the ranks as one of my top YA boyfriends of all time.

I was definitely grateful for the increased participation of the secondary characters in this book. Yes, each of them did end up serving a specific purpose, but at the same time I still appreciated their prominence, especially in the paranormal romance (PR) genre. (What, you mean the couple isn't the only thing that matters?) From Naomi's concern over her best friend's uncharacteristic behavior, Vicky and Simon's support toward (and somewhat fangirling over) the whole genie thing, and even Margo's mom showing a few fleeting moments of motherly support and life-learned wisdom, they all added depth to Margo's world, making her non-romantic conflicts all that much more substantial.

Speaking of love, there is a very good reason love-related wishes aren't allowed in G- or PG-rated content: forcing someone to love you against their will is a magical form of rape. Suffice it to say, a couple love wishes happen in this book, and the word rape is correctly used to describe the situation. I will go ahead and say/spoil no physical sexual rape occurs in the book (it is still YA after all), but I do want to mention it as a trigger warning.

This book is not afraid to tackle some huge issues, rape being one, but gender identity being another. It's mentioned in the book blurb that Margo's "being a girl is called into question". Genies are forced to take a form pleasing to each master they have, and this body becomes their new "base" as long as that master holds their vessel, though practiced genies can change to any form at will. Needless to say, at one point Margo finds herself in a male body and has to deal with the mindset of being male yet still identifying as a female. Also dealing with a female Oliver at times was interesting. Add in a few other PR tropes getting dealt with and I, for one, enjoyed most of what this story had to offer.

However, the most frustrating thing for me was the fact that I figured out the big solution to Margo's problem before I even picked up the book. No, seriously, I knew exactly how to give Margo what she wanted as soon as I finished the last book. Unfortunately that made most of the drama and indecision in this book annoying to trudge through. I already had the solution, why did it take weeks and 300+ pages for the characters to figure it out?

Because this is a story about coming of age and finding one's own path in life. Where the last book had a big bad villain, this story's main conflict is Margo dealing with the consequences of her own choices. Yes, she does have to deal with some very douchey people, friendship misunderstandings, college acceptance letters, and musical rehearsals, but in the end she's mostly dealing with the responsibility of the choice she made. And it's pointed out multiple times that she didn't have to do it, but she chose to do it, and now she has to decide what that choice means for her future. Excuse me a second while I give another energetic fist pump.

One last thing I think it's important to know before heading into this book: The Fourth Wish is the conclusion of Margo's story. The Art of Wishing is a duet/duology/two-book-series. This is the end. And I'll admit, part of me was kind of disappointed. I mean, I went into this story expecting some new big bad to show up, cause conflict, and finish with some cliffhanger a la The Empire Strikes Back to lead us into Book 3. But that isn't the story, and the rest of me (that isn't hung up on YA PR tropes) is very glad of that. It isn't padded or stretched out with extra conflict just to fill the trilogy trend, instead it knows just where to end. Granted, the ending felt a bit fast (as was the first book's, since I forgot to mention that), and I would have loved for the last scene to have lasted a tad longer with more character interactions, and of course I wouldn't say No to a continuation, but ultimately the ending felt complete I appreciated where this story ended.

Overall, The Fourth Wish was a thoughtful and satisfying conclusion to an innovative and fun series. I'd highly recommend it and its prequel to anyone eager for a little common sense with their YA paranormal romance or those that want a fresh look at genies. There are mentions of rape, an off-screen sex scene preceded by some on-screen making out, and some physical violence which I believe keeps this in high school range. So if you're tired of the same old tropes and are looking for something different, something daring, something magical, then I would definitely recommend you check out The Art of Wishing and The Fourth Wish.

Approximate Reading Time: 5 hours