Young Adult – As You Wish

Ever since her best friend and exboyfriend Lawrence came out of the closet – thereby breaking up with her – Viola has felt like the Invisible Girl. She has friends, and people acknowledge her, but she doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere. Not the way she belonged when she and Lawrence were dating. The intensity of her wish to belong summons a jinn, ready to grant her three wishes, and impatient to return to his world. But Viola isn’t sure what she should wish for, and the more she procrastinates, the more Jinn starts to doubt whether he truly wishes to leave her…

This was a fun story, and I highly enjoyed it. It was a sweet, if slightly predictable romance. That being said, it made me a bit uneasy how utterly destroyed Viola was at the thought of being alone. There are a few moments were Lawrence or Jinn try to convince her that she is not “broken” just because she doesn’t have a boyfriend, and by the end of the book Viola admits that she is a whole person all by herself, but the vast majority of the book showcases Viola’s intense sense of being a non-person simply because she is alone. When she gets a boyfriend who is completely wrong for her, she realizes that he is not good for her sense of self but stays with him anyway because the alternative, to be alone, is simply to horrifying to contemplate. She only dumps him when another love appears on the horizon. The last chapter or two show Viola alone and self-confident (at least for awhile), but the rest of the book does not. Yes, it’s just a silly romance novel, but the message to young women should still be mentioned.

In another area where I’m probably over-analyzing the messages in the book, is with Lawrence’s sexuality. He claims that he has purposefully avoided dating anyone so as not to cause Viola more grief, but this seems to be an unhealthy response to Viola’s neediness. Later, when Viola is happy and confident again, he doesn’t seem to be dating either. The most we see out of him is a few glances at boys at a fair. This seems to fall a little too closely into the stereotype of the “gay best friend”. And it is a bit disturbing that Jinn says that wishes can’t “change who you are” (so no becoming a mermaid), yet later SPOILER SPOILER a possibly unfriendly ifrit changes Lawrence to be straight. (Don’t worry, Viola makes the choice to change him back again.) How is that not changing an essential part of what makes Lawrence himself? END SPOILER Yes, it’s very dramatic and potentially angsty (and I saw it coming miles away just for that reason) but it seemed inappropriate to me.

In any case, I really did enjoy the book, even if I feel compelled to pick apart its undertones after finishing it.

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