Kristin Harmel’s newest release is an engrossing young adult novel called When You Wish. This is a delightful story of a girl pushed to be a star by her mother, but Star herself doesn’t feel comfortable with her “star” persona, and tries to discover who she really is. Readers might remember my earlier reviews of Kristin Harmel’s wonderful chick lit books How to Sleep with a Movie Star and The Art of French Kissing, and this book is right up there with the others – if you’ve read her other books, you will definitely want to pick this one up! If you’re not already a fan, When You Wish will quickly convince you to pick up her other novels.
When You Wish has a similar feel to Kristin’s chick lit books, with a strong female character and vibrant secondary characters. Unlike Kristin’s books for adults, When You Wish has a title that won’t make you blush, and any “romance” is teen-appropriate. Some authors have trouble moving from adult novels to young adult, but Kristin has found a great balance – there’s enough tension to keep the reader pulled in to Star’s life, and yet parents will feel comfortable with their kids reading the novel. Assuming, that is, that the parents don’t snag it to read for themselves!
I’ve talked about the need for great female leads in my Maximum Ride reviews, as well as in other reviews of young adult novels. As a mom of 3 girls who are growing up far too quickly, I continue to search for strong, fun, and engaging girls in young adult and tween novels. Star is a very different character than Max, but they share an inner strength paired with an anxiety about trusting that inner strength, which makes them realistic and approachable. In When You Wish, Star leaves her celebrity life in search of her estranged father, but also to find out who she is when she isn’t surrounded by her entourage. Start finds the world outside the pop star circuit to be very different from what she is accostomed to, but she makes decisions based on her own moral compass and finds that she points herself in the right direction.
There’s a surplus of boy “coming of age” books, and a surfeit of the girl equivalent that aren’t sappy and/or clichéd. When You Wish is sweet, but below the sweetness lies a strength that comes from Star’s determination and courage. There is a very hot guy involved, but Star does what needs to be done for herself, not just to get the cute guy. There’s plenty of crush-activity for teens to be happy, and plenty of spunk in Star so she never comes across as a stereotypical teenage girl.
No stereotypes or clichés seems to be Kristin Harmel’s writing creed. At first glance, Star’s mother seems like a typical stage mother, but there are hidden depths that you discover as the book progresses. The same is true for the father Star seeks, the entourage she left behind, and the people she meets along the way. It would be very easy to make this book into a teen version of Thelma & Louise, and not do any character or plot development, but Kristin has steered clear of that path and written a book that is well worth the shelf space.
I highly recommend When You Wish for young adult readers (too much kissing for my tween). Not-so-young adults shouldn’t overlook this novel, though! When You Wish is a very heartening, feel-good story that pulls you into Star’s gravity with a great cast of characters and a story that keeps you turning page after page. Go pick up a copy and read a story that will have you smiling when it’s finished – we all deserve great reads like this!