Here’s my take on wishes: They’re generally a bad idea. Whether you end up sparring with a loophole-loving genie; you get exactly what you thought you wanted, only to find it’s not all it’s cracked up to be; or you end up selling your soul to the Devil or a future favor to one of the fae, you’re more likely to end up with a greasy sausage hanging off of your nose than you are to gain fame or fortune or beauty or strength or love or whatever else you might desire.
And that’s just one person making one wish! Imagine the potential for disaster if say, a secret scientific facility discovered a way to grant wishes…and shared it with the United States government. That’s the rather terrifying premise behind Kelley Lynn’s One Wish Away. But, sadly, kind of like a wish, the promise of the premise is as good as it gets.
Right off the bat, readers are required to make a huge leap of faith: These astrophysicists have found a way to harness the power of the stars to grant wishes. Like, they make a wish and a star is USED UP. They take great pains to explain to our heroine that they only use UNIMPORTANT stars, like, stars that don’t have planets or anything, but…I don’t know. I’m not Neil DeGrasse Tyson, but that seems pretty problematic to me.
Speaking of our heroine, she’s 16, but in terms of maturity, interests and social interactions, she reads like she’s 12. Points to Lynn for portraying Darren, Lyra’s best friend and love interest, as a boy whose family is balancing on the economic edge, but his “calluses from stocking the shelves at the electronics store” just don’t ring true. Lyra’s discoveries are almost all coincidence or accident-driven—just happening to overhear a conversation, just happening to find something vital by dropping something else—which diminishes her agency. Much of the description is in the “sapphire blue eyes” vein, while the emotions and tones are conveyed thusly: “His eyes sparkle with sarcasm.”
Most frustratingly, the fallout of the wishes isn’t explored all that deeply. For example—and to avoid major spoilers—the first wish that the scientists make is a small one in comparison to the later wishes: They wish that Kurt Cobain hadn’t committed suicide. So, 20 years after his death in our reality, Nirvana is still together, and has just released a new album. But there’s no word as to whether or not that erased the Foo Fighters, or what direction Courtney Love’s life has taken. Considering the immediate and obvious far-reaching effects of the later wishes the group makes, skating over the details of a much more seemingly minor—and yet hugely influential in so many directions—change in history felt not only like a missed opportunity, but a glaring omission: Highlighting the changes that came about from a smaller tweak would have make the enormity and gravity of the later wishes that much more clear.
And finally, CLIFFHANGER. But unless Cobain himself has a cameo—or Lyra ends up with a sausage dangling from her nose—I can’t imagine that I’ll bother with Book Two.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.