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Friday, May 30, 2014

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Book Review: Three Wishes

From The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (aka 1001 Arabian Nights), to I Dream of Jeannie, to Aladdin, the idea of powerful genies that grant wishes to their masters has long fascinated Western audiences. In Deborah Kreiser’s Three Wishes, these powers are bestowed upon an unsuspecting seventeen-year-old girl. Typically this tale is told from the perspective of the master. Sure, deciding how to use your three wishes is tough, but selecting the recipient of such a gift is arguably more complicated.
When Genie Lowry, a high school senior and gifted swimmer, turns seventeen-and-a-half, her tall, rail-thin body develops ample curves that turn her from ugly duckling to bodacious swan overnight. Her grandparents inform her that she is in fact a genie, just like her mother was, now blessed with the power to grant wishes. Genie’s own wish comes true when her crush, Pete Dillon, notices her sudden maturity and asks her out. Through an old diary left to Genie, her mother’s spirit guides and informs her that she must find a master by her eighteenth birthday or forfeit her powers forever. As Genie searches for the right master, she deals with attention and judgment from her classmates that she’s not used to, friends who don’t understand why she’s changed, and a boyfriend whose feelings might not be completely genuine.

Three Wishes is a fun and lighthearted yarn, more magic realism than fantasy. Though the main plot is driven by Genie’s developing powers and her connection to her mother through a mystical diary, much of the story is focused on Genie’s friendships and school drama. Genie’s attempts to help out her friends and family with her new power resolve in amusing ways, and as we expect, wishes can’t solve every problem. But these are small diversions compared to an overbearing boyfriend, unlocking the mystery surrounding her heritage, and keeping her powers hidden from her inquisitive best friend.

As this story is largely based on non-western folklore, I felt the world-building could have been a little more thorough. The genies of Three Wishes seem to be based on the Western idea of genies, with the only link to their true origin being Genie’s copy of 1001 Arabian Nights. It’s a missed opportunity to delve deeper into djinn lore.

The characters are enjoyable and realistic, for the most part. Genie’s grandparents are endearing. Her two friends and frequent chauffeurs are comically named Luke and Leia, betraying their parents’ undying love for a certain science fiction franchise. And then there’s the new boyfriend Pete Dillon, who effectively rides the line between doting first love and a complete ogre. In typical young adult fashion there is a love triangle to keep you silently begging Genie to make the right choice (and boy, does she drag it out). I hoped to see classmate Marc Hidalgo rise above the role of token gay friend, trotted in whenever Genie needs someone to compliment her looks or dole out prom dress advice, but alas, that’s a wish left unfulfilled.

Things get a little weird with Genie’s diary, left behind by her mother. At first it reads like a letter left to then unborn Genie, but as Genie comes to rely on it for guidance, it begins talking to her directly. Is it a book or a telephone, and why isn’t Genie wondering the same thing? I was equally confused by the appearance of a substitute teacher who knows Genie’s secret and offers to help her develop her powers. It seemed she might have ulterior motives, but neither these nor her true identity is revealed. I can only hope it’s setup for the sequel, because I have no other explanation.

 Though there are a few holes in the world-building, I liked the characters and Genie’s transformation (the emotional one, not the physical). This will be an entertaining read for young adult fans looking for school drama with a touch of comedy and a magical twist. 

Title: Three Wishes

Author: Deborah Kreiser

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Recommendation: Yes

Best Reader Audience: Teenagers

Final Rating: 3 out of 5 dozy foxes

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