Van, who is hard of hearing and uses hearing aids, discovers the true mission of the City Collection Agency: to collect wayward wishes.
One summer in an unnamed North American city, Van spots a girl and a squirrel fishing for a coin that has just been tossed into a fountain by wisher. He soon learns that both girl and squirrel belong to a secret society of people and talking animals who collect and store wishes made as folks toss coins in fountains, extinguish birthday candles, break wishbones, and so forth. Turns out, when uncontained, wishes can come true, and their magic is often chaotic, unpredictable, and dangerous. Van is soon pulled into a power struggle when Mr. Falborg, a fan of Van’s opera-singer mother who is also aware of wishing magic, asks Van to find out just what the City Collection Agency has stored away. West states in her acknowledgements that she consulted with several deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and the descriptions of Van’s use of hearing aids, his struggles with background noise, and his ability to quickly rethink misheard speech based on context clues ring true. Although the plot gets a little bogged down in comings and goings and a few characters seem extraneous, West has constructed a fast-paced and engrossing tale of a boy wrestling with the consequences of power and responsibility. The book assumes a white default.
Readers may not wish to leave this magical world. (Fantasy. 8-12)