Review: How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring BlakeHow to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
Published by HMH BFYR on May 2, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
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two-half-stars

Grace, tough and wise, has nearly given up on wishes, thanks to a childhood spent with her unpredictable, larger-than-life mother. But this summer, Grace meets Eva, a girl who believes in dreams, despite her own difficult circumstances.

One fateful evening, Eva climbs through a window in Grace’s room, setting off a chain of stolen nights on the beach. When Eva tells Grace that she likes girls, Grace’s world opens up and she begins to believe in happiness again. How to Make a Wish is an emotionally charged portrait of a mother and daughter’s relationship and a heartfelt story about two girls who find each other at the exact right time.

Every time I read a new f/f book, I’m so excited, waiting for my OTP-level f/f ship to make an appearance. I’m still waiting. I had high hopes for How to Make a Wish, but it’s not really a Christina book or a particularly shippy book, though I do think it does a great job with the family aspects.

How to Make a Wish runs to the more melodramatic and tragic side of contemporary, which isn’t my favorite side. And, for the record, no, I don’t think that all dark “issue” contemporary novels are melodramatic, but this one has View Spoiler » so I think that How to Make a Wish has earned that designation. It’s a bit too much to the unrelenting sadness side for me, though the voice was strong enough that I read this through pretty quickly and enjoyed it more than I would have expected.

In reading How to Make a Wish, I couldn’t help but be reminded of two recent books with similar themes: Ramona Blue and Gem & Dixie. Though Ramona Blue is the best of the three, I’d definitely encourage anyone thinking about reading Gem & Dixie to read How to Make a Wish instead. Both novels focus on the difficulty of escaping neglectful, addict parents because of the urge to seek love. Grace’s mother is an alcoholic and, though Grace knows her mom has consistently fucked up and risked Grace’s safety over and over, she also loves her mom and can’t bring herself to leave; she’s even thinking about staying home from college because her mom can’t take care of herself. This character arc truly is heartbreaking, and I think Blake achieves a realistic, understandable, and also ultimately satisfying emotional arc for both Grace and Maggie (not the case for the girls and parents in Gem & Dixie).

I’m pretty sure the romance was meant to be the soothing balm to the constant sadness, but, unfortunately, I didn’t ship the ship. Eva and Grace do try to banter, but…it’s weird. They meet on the beach where Eva is crying, drawing in a coloring book, and eating peanut butter. During this “meet cute,” Grace has to stop Eva from (knowingly) eating a bite of sandy peanut butter with seaweed on it. As a parting gesture, Eva licks the sand off one of her fingers and eats it. I just… They reference this more later like it’s adorable and just yeah no sorry I’m not with you guys on this one.

That’s actually kind of the shippy high point, as gross as it is, because then Eva shows up at her window without invitation. Like, listen, I shipped Twilight when I was younger and didn’t know better, but I know better now and YIKES. Setting both those things aside, Eva and Grace really don’t seem that compatible. Their particular sets of issues just don’t seem to dovetail well. Eva actively makes things harder for Grace by continuing to be friendly with Grace’s mother, aka the source of all of Grace’s issues. (Side note: it’s fucking weird to become besties with your crush’s mom. WHO DOES THAT, EVA? WHO???)

There’s brilliant ship set up with Eva ending up living with her ex-boyfriend. I’d have loved to see this book reworked so she was living with her ex-girlfriend unexpectedly, and they rekindled something. That would be so much better than the sand-eating, window-climbing things that How to Make a Wish has going. It’s just never a good sign if the ship was my least favorite part, since I live for ships.

I’d also have liked to see Blake expand on Grace’s friendship with Luca. They’ve got this completely platonic boy/girl friendship, which you don’t see very often, and I’d loved for them to have a real arc. All they have going on is Grace’s puzzling antagonism for Luca’s new girlfriend. The girl hate there is pretty upsetting actually, and there’s no real arc, aside from Grace commenting that she’s going to need to try to learn to like the girl, who is, by the way, perfectly nice. These moments feel so off that I wonder if there was some sort of arc there in an earlier draft that got cut but left dangling threads behind.

Grace’s character arc makes this book worthwhile if you’re looking for some family feels and sadness. If you’re looking for a brilliant f/f ship, keep searching.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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One response to “Review: How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake”

  1. Pam says:

    I am pretty weirded out by the sandy peanut butter.

    Like, if I saw a dude on the beach that I thought was cute, and we were all tee-hee (this has literally never happened but you never know), I would not … eat p.b. off of his body. At all.

    Maybe I am a prude. IDK.

    I have heard lots of super amazing things about it but I’m really glad I read your review for another perspective.

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