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Wishful Thinking

Review

Wishful Thinking

It's probably not surprising that Hazel Snow feels a bit aimless as she approaches her last summer before college. After all, she has spent most of her life feeling this way. Adopted as an infant only to have her adoptive mother die in a fire when she was still a baby, Hazel has been raised (if that's the right word) by a series of foster families and by Roy, her less-than-reliable sort-of stepdad. She's not sure if she wants to go to New York City for college or stay at home in San Francisco; she's not sure if she would like to be a photographer or something else entirely; and she's not sure if her feelings for her goofy classmate Jasper signify friendship or something else.

But all of Hazel's aimlessness and indecision suddenly come into focus when she receives a surprise envelope on her 18th birthday. Inside is her birth certificate and the name of her birth mother. At once, Hazel is on a mission to locate her birth mother, to perhaps find the home she's always felt she lacked. But when her plan backfires heartbreakingly, she is left with nothing but a beautiful dress and a lingering wish to have the chance to know her birth mother, a wish that seems impossible now.

Or is it? Thanks to the magical powers of the mysterious dress she has found, Hazel finds herself whisked back to the year of her birth and to the other side of the country, amid the artistic inhabitants and "summer people" of Martha's Vineyard. There she finally comes to know the woman whose name appears on her birth certificate, while also learning how to fit into a makeshift community, making difficult friendships and even falling in love. She learns more than one surprising secret and even discovers more about her past --- and her future --- than she ever could have thought possible. At the end of the summer, Hazel has one more wish. How will she spend it?

WISHFUL THINKING is a sequel of sorts to Alexandra Bullen's debut novel, WISH, but only in the very broadest terms. The framing story is the same --- a girl receives a dress that gives her the power to receive any wish she makes (within certain parameters) --- but the plot and characters are very different. Like any good tale of magic wishes, the book turns the idea of wishing --- and granting wishes --- on its head, showing the contrasts between what we need and what we think we want. Readers may figure out some of the plot's twists long before Hazel herself does, but that doesn't make the story any less satisfactory or its messages about self-discovery any less powerful.

In the end, Bullen's novel suggests that even the most aimless-seeming life can provide surprising joys, and even the smallest, most overlooked objects can offer surprising beauties.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 1, 2011

Wishful Thinking
by Alexandra Bullen

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2011
  • Genres: Urban Fantasy
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Point
  • ISBN-10: 0545139074
  • ISBN-13: 9780545139076