How to Make a Wish, by Ashley Herring Blake
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn’t have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.
Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace’s mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.
Partial Coming Out (bisexual, lesbian)
WOC/POC (biracial LI)
Coming of Age
Relationships (family, friends)
Art/Music (piano, ballet)
Gaslighting/Mentally abusive parent
There are so many things to love about this novel. Blake’s writing is best described as waves layer lapping steadily closer until you’re pulled underwater and into the story; layer by layer, scene by scene, Blake pulls you deeper into the lives of Grace, the main character, and everyone around her. You can’t help but empathize with every single character at some point, because they’re all so complex and dynamic. They’re someone you might pass on the street and never see again, or someone you know for a time and drifted away from, or maybe even you or your closest family and friends. Blake has created a full cast of characters that you can’t help but root for, even when you can’t stand them.
As I write this review, I realize that my favorite aspects of the story all fall under a single category: relationships. Specifically, Grace’s relationships with family and friends.
First and foremost, I loved Grace’s friendship with Luca, her best friend. Her person. So often in novels, the bffs are either someone the main character completely drifts away from, or someone who is the perfect match, who they never fight with. I’m aware these are real relationships (my best friend is someone I’ve known for years and we’ve never fought). However, I find a deep happiness in reading about best friends who are Ride or Die, but who also have periods of time where they aren’t talking as much, or they’re so busy with the rest of their lives that they don’t stay in contact as well—they always come back to each other, though. The last is what we see between Grace and Luca within the novel. Up until this point, they have rarely been without each other, but then new people enter their lives and circumstances lead to fights and avoidance. Ultimately, though, they are each other’s best friend. Nothing can keep them apart for long; they’ll never stop loving and caring about each other.
Next is Eva, the love interest and a girl almost as broken as Grace. Eva comes to town after the death of her mother, moving in with Luca’s family. She’s grieving—so much that she doesn’t know what to do with it all sometimes—but she somehow manages to still be light, airy, and happy while allowing herself to mourn. Eva comes into Grace’s life when the edges of her newly shattered life are still sharp, moving her way into Grace’s life with surprising and, for Grace, disturbing ease. Grace’s edges have been blunted over time, resharpened as some new tragedy tornados through her life, and then blunted again by the numb acceptance that comes from seemingly unchangeable circumstances. It’s Eva’s presence and encouragement that finally helps Grace to realize that things can change, that she can have what she wants, that she can open herself up to people instead of remaining closed off. Their pieces fit together like a puzzle.
The third and final relationship that really stuck out to me was that between Grace and Maggie, her mother. This one, though, makes me feel really conflicted because I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it. Grace’s father was killed when she was two, so she barely remembers him, but Maggie’s life has been a wreck since. She spiraled out of control into alcoholism, house hopping, and a long string of boyfriends and hookups to try filling the void inside of her. At least temporarily. It was incredibly difficult for me to read about the two of them together because I identified with certain aspects of their relationship. I know what it’s like to have a parent who doesn’t know when to stop drinking; I know what it’s like to worry about how they will get home, if I’ll have to drive them, if their significant other is sober there to drive. I know what it’s like to have a parent who clearly loves you but who doesn’t think about what they say and how it can hurt you. I know what it’s like to feel flayed to the bone by something they said, but you don’t say anything because it will only make things worse for you. And I know what it’s like to be perpetually gaslit by a parent, someone who is supposed to love and care for you always, but still defend them when others speak badly about them. It’s such a complex, confusing, and harmful way to live, and I could really deeply connect with Grace. I was able to see myself in her—both in the good and the bad.
Ashley Herring Blake is a reader, writer, and mom to two boisterous boys. She holds a Master’s degree in teaching and loves coffee, arranging her books by color, and watching Buffy over and over again on Netflix with her friends. She’s the author of the young adult novels SUFFER LOVE and HOW TO MAKE A WISH.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.