In a tumultuous opener, young Ace opens a peanut-butter jar and finds himself saddled with an inexperienced genie and a desperate mission to save the world.
Without getting into the deeper meaning of it all (as yet, anyway), Whitesides concocts an ingenious premise. Ace, a white foster child with no memory of his real name or life before age 9, learns that he has a week to prevent a certain someone from opening a magic jar or see humankind exterminated by zombie cats and dogs. He gets as many wishes as he wants, but each comes with a balancing “consequence” that can range, depending on the scale of the wish, from permanent fish breath to the temporary loss of an arm to the death of everyone he’s ever met. The dark-skinned, T-shirt and shorts–clad genie, Ridge, is there not to grant wishes (that’s done by the Universe) but to explain their consequences beforehand. As if the well-known hazards of hastily formulated wishes—and the burgeoning, often hilarious consequences—weren’t complications enough, the author trucks in challenges like armies of stone men and malign stuffed animals, plus other young Wishmakers—notably demonstrably smarter Latina age-mate Martina Gomez—with convergent but possibly conflicting quests of their own. Art not seen.
Narrow squeaks aplenty amid high hilarity, with a climactic twist that will leave readers fervently wishing for the sequel. (Fantasy. 10-13)