Overall Rating: 3 Stars
Title: What You Wish For
Author: Katherine Center
Format: Audiobook provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.
When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.
I have loved everything I’ve read by Katherine Center so far and while this book wasn’t my favorite of hers, I still enjoyed it for the most part.
There are definite trigger warnings in this book for the loss of a loved one, gun violence, abuse, and medical trauma.
All of those trigger warnings may make you think that this is going to be an incredibly emotional book… you’re right… however, it isn’t all doom and gloom. It tackles some serious subject matter, but the hope and joy in this book make a good balance.
I did find some of those parts a bit cheesy – and trust me, I can tolerate a fair amount of it – sometimes, considering the darker parts, I wondered if it was a little over the top.
Another criticism I found – which is fully just a “me” thing – are inaccuracies or things that just wouldn’t happen in a private school setting. Or if they did, it’d be a HUGE deal.
I have a better part of a decade’s experience with the administration/development (and parent) side of private schools and it was slightly irritating to read about how certain things were handled at the school that would not fly in real life.
It took me out of the story every time.
The most glaring was when the new Head of School claimed he was re-allocating funds that were raised for a new playground to build something completely different. I could NEVER imagine that happening. Parents would lose their ever-loving minds if they donated large sums of money to a capital campaign and the nonprofit organization suddenly changed their minds about what they were using the money for. I also highly doubt a Board of Directors would agree to that.
Is it even legal?
There were also little things like how the “quirky” teacher behaved in flashbacks and I kept imagining what kind of uproar it truly would’ve caused at faculty meetings – and how many complaints the Head of School and administration would get from other teachers. You’d be surprised at how upsetting those overly outgoing teachers are to the rest of the faculty. I think I would’ve been more impressed with this book if it had handled those nuances more accurately. It definitely would’ve been far more believable for me.
I really enjoyed the romance, though the hero’s “before and after” characteristics were so jarringly different that his character didn’t hold a lot of believability to me. In fact, I found both the main characters somewhat lacking. I loved the epilepsy rep, though I can’t speak to how well it was done. I did feel like the heroine’s quirks weren’t consistent. I can’t really put into words what it was exactly, but something felt off with both of these characters which has not been the case at all with other Katherine Center books I’ve read.
Speaking of the epilepsy rep, I fully empathize with how the main character felt about her illness. It is a constant storm cloud that looms over her head and plays a part in every decision she makes. It refocused her future and how her mind works on a minute-to-minute basis. The constant, “is this an episode,” worry was so relatable to me.
I have Multiple Sclerosis, so I know what it is like to carry around your illness with you everywhere you go, whether you’re having a flare-up or not. I both love and hate reading about it in books.
As always in Katherine Center books, I did love the ending. I love how she wraps things up in a pretty bow. And OMG if I could rate only her essay about reading for joy at the end, I’d give it all the stars in the universe, it was so validating and so good!
Audiobook Performance: 5 stars
The audiobook reader for this was REALLY good!
Butterfly Rating: 1 Star
Re-read Worthiness: No
Bookshelf Placement: Maybe
Book Boyfriend Rating: 2 stars