What You Wish For by Katherine Center
Publication Date : July 14th 2020
Publisher : St. Martin’s Press
Genre : Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Romance
Pages : 320
From Katherine Center, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel full of heart and hope.
Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.
When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.
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*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to publisher and NetGalley. ***
What You Wish For was amazing cotemporary romance that revolved around Sam and her efforts to save her beautiful school. It was about fight the darkness and find joy in life, getting over fear, PTSD, death, friendship, companionship, belongingness, and love.
Writing was lovely, flawless, and descriptive, it hooked me to story from the beginning. Setting of Kempner elementary school on historic island of Galveston, Texas was amazing. Told in first person narrative from Sam’s POV made the book charming and refreshing.
I’m not going to repeat the plot or how it started, synopsis told it perfectly. I loved plot, characters, and everything in this book. It was a bit predictable but I enjoyed every moment in this book. Close-knit community of school- staff, students, people of island and Max’s family they looked after each other, loved school and cared for it.
Max was there in whole book even though he died in first chapter. His character, nature and lessons he taught lived within all characters except Kent Buckley. He was such opportunist douchebag son-in-law. I was surprised he was appointed chairman after Max’s death and learning what he planned for school. I couldn’t figure out why Max’s daughter, Tina, would marry this guy stay with him and tolerate him but couldn’t stand Sam’s presence even though she was always nice to her.
I loved this conversation between Max and Sam-
“Joy is Important.”
Was it? “I don’t know. Not having car accident is important. Joy is pretty expandable.”
But Max just smiled. “It’s one of the secrets to life that no one ever tells you. Joy cures everything.”
I flared my nostril. “Everything?” I challenged pointing at the bandage over my stitches.”
“Everything emotional” Max clarified.
“I don’t think you can cure emotions.” I said.
But Max just nodded. “Joy is antidote to fear. To anger. To boredom. To sorrow.”
Babette was awesome. This old lady was my favorite. Alice was so Mathy (is that a word?). Herlove for math, math jokes, and seeing everything in life with math was infectious. And Clay is my most favorite little guy. He was Tina’s son, only 3rd grader but knew a lot of things about marine. He was total brainy and even read Steinbeck! I loved him for taking name calling as compliment. He was wisest character after Max and Babette.
Sam was lovely librarian, full of life. She loved Kempner school, her job and kids at school. On outside who didn’t know her would say she never felt sadness or faced darkness in life, but she too was fighting sadness and loneliness every day. She had epilepsy and faced bad things because of it in childhood that implanted seed of fear and loneliness deep within her soul. She was still struggling with unpredictable seizures, but I loved how Max, Babette, and Alice helped her. She tried to live fullest, grabbed joy whenever and wherever she could but when Duncan came back in her life, life and her feelings became complicated. She showed Duncan what it’s like to have fun and happiness and live above the fear but at the same time she wasn’t really ready let go her fears- fear of rejection, fear of change in person’s view after witnessing her epilepsy and fear of holding them back. Her development was great. Her feelings about epilepsy, for school, Max-Babette, and Duncan touched my heart.
Duncan was interesting. His description through Sam’s eyes, his quirkiness and events he created in previous school they worked together created fun image and when he joined Kemper’s as principle, his180 degree character change was shocking. He didn’t gave best impression with that stage speech and changes he started making in school with all those school securities and safety memos popped my eyes out of socket. I could see why Sam was so concerned it made me equally curious to know his story which was predictable, but when I heard it, it was heart wrenching. He was amazing person, he had best interest at heart but he was weighed down by trauma, fear and obsession of making school safe that he couldn’t see what he was doing to school and staff. It surprised me to see elementary school turning into grey, joyless and confined prison. But when Sam made team with Babette and Alice on Duncan project to change his mind, make him see good in world, beauty of school, joy and happiness above his fear and specially what he was before tragedy, I could see him change gradually. I loved how wall around himself started to crumble brick by brick and relationship between him and Sam blossoming along with it.
Romance was cute, it was well balanced with theme and plot of the book. There were sad moments that made my heart heavy more than once but there were so many joyful and beautiful moments that proved no matter what happens in life it’s worth to find joy, fight darkness and live fullest.
I enjoyed reading school’s history, each classes in school and its decorations, specially library, Galveston Sea wall, amusement park built on pier, The Great Galveston storm and museum for it. It was really interesting and I loved googling these places.
Importance of school security and school shooting was handled delicately. We see how difficult it is for those who survived, importance of therapy for PTSD, love from people and helping survivors to move on. It also made me think what Duncan was doing was not wrong but also made me agree with Sam that overdoing it doesn’t make it kids friendly environment of school, there need to be balance in it, and nobody can protect anybody all the time.
Life doesn’t give you what you want just the way you want it. Life doesn’t ever make things easy. How dare you demand that happiness should be yours without any sacrifice- without any courage? What an incredible spoiled idea- that anything should come easy? Love makes you better because it’s hard. Taking risks makes you better because it’s terrifying. That’s how it works. You will never get anything that matters without earning it. And even what you get, you won’t get to keep. Joy is fleeting. Nothing lasts. That’s exactly what courage is. Knowing all that going in- and going in anyway.
Climax was surprising. I was expecting something will happen all along, I knew Kent Buckley would do something but when and how was surprising. I loved the way Sam and Duncan cleared differences, admitted their feelings but what happened afterwards was not at all predictable. I loved the end and how things turned out for all characters.
What You Wish For was meaningful, inspiring, feel good and entertaining emotional roller coaster with beautiful setting and amazing characters. If you still haven’t read any Katherine Center’s book, just get this one and start reading.Tweet
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I hope you enjoyed this review. Let me know what do you think about the book, if you have read this already or any book by the same author. What are your thoughts on school safety, Like Duncan would you like to have bulletproof dome around school with no natural lights and locked gate or like Sam you would prefer child friendly environment or balance of both?
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