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WELL WISHED by Franny Billingsley


by Franny Billingsley

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-689-81210-8
Publisher: Atheneum

 The intersection of magic and reality is somewhat bumpy in this intriguing first novel. Nuria, 11, wishes she had a friend. Orphaned, she has come to live with her grandfather, the Avy, in the magical town of Bishop Mayne. The town's central feature is a wishing well, but wishes have a way of going dangerously awry: One wish went wrong and every child in town disappeared. The Avy attempts to wish them back but succeeds with only one child, Catty Winter, who is crippled. Nuria hasn't the knack for friendship; the Avy is the first person she's known who has really loved her, and she's jealous when he tries to include Catty. Defying his orders to stay away from the well, Nuria makes a wish--that Catty could have a body just like her own. That's exactly what Catty gets; Nuria, meanwhile, is left with Catty's damaged limbs. Lively, imaginative Nuria, with her very real insecurities, is an interesting character, as is the warm, eccentric Avy; Catty's own pressing agendas are both poignant and believable. The story stumbles only in the delineation of the magical apparatus, spelled out abruptly in the opening pages before readers have their bearings, and leaving little doubt as to the direction events will take. For all the novelistic trimmings, Billingsley's debut is a fairy tale, elongated and embellished, but not necessarily improved. (Fiction. 9-12)