Even though it has been many (many) years, I still remember trying on dresses for my high school dances. Many times a dress that looked perfect on the rack or in a picture looked awful when put on. But then the right one would be magic – that feeling you have of suddenly becoming a part of a fairy tale. Hazel Snow, who has always had to be far too concerned with the practical, is about to get a crash course in just how magical the right dress can be.
Hazel has had a bit of bad luck in the mom department. Her real mother gave her up for adoption. Her adoptive mother died in a fire. Her foster mothers have run the full range of loser. Then she receives a stunning gift – three magical dresses that grant one wish each. And Hazel has had only one wish her whole life – to know her mother.
The catch? The wish is granted but Hazel does not meet her mother of today. Instead, she is transported to 18 years in the past, to the summer she was conceived and to a place far from what she is used to – Martha’s Vineyard. As Hazel gets to know all the people who make up her mom’s world, she figures a few things out that most of wish we had learned young: Who we are and just what made us that way. That changing the past can also change the present and future. And that our parents are human, too.
This is book two of the Wish series, but I had not read book one when I picked this up and didn’t miss a thing. Each book is about a different girl, and the continuing character – the wish granting seamstress – plays a very minor role. The ruling theme of the books seems to be “Be careful what you wish for. You just may get it” and it highlights how some of the things we wish most ardently we had – popularity, a normal family, success – form the best parts of us simply by being missing.
That is certainly the case for Hazel, who as she becomes entwined with Hannah, and Jaime and Luke, realizes that she has their counterparts in her own real time life. As she spends the summer on Martha’s Vineyard she becomes more aware of just what made her who she is and why that is so very important to being her. She also finds she likes herself – a wish few people are granted. Hazel’s just a great character – a bit bitter, but ready to give that up and embrace life and learn from it. She’s independent and strong but with a sense of wonder, and a heart open to fun. In short, she is everything we should all be at 18.
The secondary characters make a great foil for Hazel’s growth. Jaime most especially shows that having a mom figure doesn’t turn you into a Hazel. I liked the contrast between them. It displayed how our decisions make us, as Dumbledore was so fond of saying.
I have been deliberately cryptic about the plot because this little gem is short and reads fast. Part of that is less the page length and more the simplicity of the plot. There are no murders here, no big mysteries. This is a character driven novel, and the plot and people are so intertwined that to give away one is to give away the secrets of the other. The plot does fit in smoothly with the character growth though, making the tale a cohesive, enjoyable work.
There is some romance, but it is very bittersweet. Hazel’s own relationship is doomed because she always plans to go and live in her own time. The other relationships tend to be doomed by the simple fact that they are summer teen romances, not known for their stability. Still, they are sweet and can’t help but remind you of how wonderful it was to be in “almost” love back in those early years of your life.
This is a great novel for anyone who enjoys spending a few hours as a teen once more. I did go back and read the first book in the series and did not find it half so riveting, so I would skip that and start with this one.