I received an ARC of What You Wish For by Katherine Center from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I will admit I’m struggling with this review. This book grapples with a very polarized subject in America: safety in our schools. I’m trying to think of the emotions involved when someone says school shooting. It’s like the first drop in a roller coaster when you hear the words: your stomach just flips.
So as an ardent Katherine Center fan, I went into this book like a hog coming out a chute.
And I ran into a brick wall at full force.
What You Wish For
I will start this off by saying when you get an ARC from NetGalley they caution you that it’s not the final version of the book. I’m very much hoping this book gets another edit because there were consistency mistakes. So I won’t go into those here assuming they’ll be caught in the last round of edits.
But I will mention in the inconsistency of characters.
I admire Center’s work for its tightness. You could bounce a quarter off of her books because she has her characters so tightly nailed down even you could predict their answers to unasked questions.
That was unfortunately lacking in this book. Every time a character was faced with a decision and choose an action, there was suddenly a backstory to explain the action. Instead of weaving these character traits in so masterfully you don’t notice them, the back story reared its ugly head like a mass of deal shoppers on Black Friday.
It was so utterly disjointed it threw me from the story time and time again.
The main character, Sam, has epilepsy, and she chooses to be alone because of it. But I never bought her story. Pieces of her past popped up when they made convenient plot points as if she were picking and choosing which parts of her past to react to.
Our hero, Duncan, read like a grocery list of all the cool things you want your teacher to be, but in reality, his character was so flat an iron would be intimidated, and when he did do something from the grocery list of traits, it felt forced and unusual.
I always love the background characters in a Center novel, but it’s like she forgot to write them. Sam’s best friend, Alice, was painted like a paint by numbers and every time she popped up, you would get another space filled in. It was cobbled together, and it wasn’t flowing (I’m thinking of Margaret’s sister in How To Walk Away).
I had a hard time with the subject matter of the story. School shootings are a tough subject, but one we all need to face in light of how life is today. I don’t think there’s a “right” answer.
Center does a great job of painting a picture to show the pros and cons of ultimate security versus fostering learning. She doesn’t claim to have an answer, and she encourages the reader to think for herself.
However, I think the subject matter itself prevented me from sinking into the story. Even though I had read the blurb and knew what the story was about, I didn’t expect it to take the turn it did.
I don’t read books about dogs for obvious reasons, so I like to point out potential trigger issues for readers.
In What You Wish For by Katherine Center, you will find
- School shootings
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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I would encourage anyone who enjoys contemporary women’s fiction to pick up this book. I didn’t connect with the characters, and I thought the story lacked Center’s trademark solid writing. However, the subject matter is one to be discussed, and I think this is a good bridge into the topic.
What You Wish For by Katherine Center will be released by St. Martin’s Press on July 14, 2020.