“It’s important to speak very clearly when you’re asking a fish for something,” twelve-year-old Charlie narrates in Kate Messner’s The Seventh Wish.
Like Charlie, we’ve all read enough wishing stories to know that wishes are tricky. They can’t be mumbled with messed up pronouns. They have to be carefully worded. And they can have unexpected consequences. So, when Charlie finds a magical fish with an emerald eye that grants her wishes in exchange for its freedom, she knows that wishing wrong could be more dangerous than not wishing at all.
But Charlie also knows you have to take your magic where you can get it. And, at the start of her winter break, there’s too much out of her control to leave things to chance. She needs the money for an Irish dance competition solo dress, her Mom needs a new job to pay for her sister’s college expenses, her best friend, Dasha, needs to pass her English exams, and her ice-fishing buddy, Drew, needs to get on the basketball team to get his Dad off of his back. Could it hurt to make a few unselfish wishes (and, okay, one or two selfish ones) from a magical fish? One by one, Charlie makes each wish, and watches as each one miraculously comes true.
But, like all wishing stories, each wish granted leads to some undesired outcomes. And Charlie learns that some things in life can’t be cured, even with the most carefully-worded wish.
This captivating story, which has just the perfect hint of fantasy, takes a sharp turn toward a serious reality when it’s revealed that Charlie’s sister struggles with a secret heroin addiction. Author Kate Messner tackles the grave consequences of this growing epidemic gently and skillfully for young readers. Like so many families struggling with a loved one’s addiction, Charlie watches as the sister she thought she knew disappears and, try as she might, she cannot wish her struggle away.
With a marvelous cast of endearing characters, an emotional, pulsing plot, and a narrator so earnest and sincere readers will root for her to the very end, Messner’s wishing story is as heartbreaking as it is empowering. Handled with humor and a touch of magic, this book will move readers young and old. Details of the world of Irish dancing are a wonderful bonus in an already richly imagined story. And the serenity prayer becomes a beautiful mantra for us all as Charlie learns what it truly means to change only what she can, and to accept that there are limits to what she can control. Young readers will comes to understand that they might find magic in wishes, but they can also find it themselves and in the ones they love.
The Seventh Wish is in stores now.