I don’t normally give a second glance to book covers that look like the one for Don’t You Wish by bestselling and award-winning author Roxanne St. Claire; however, I happened to read the tagline for the novel and decided to find out more about it. This is one of those instances when I realize how my biases can keep me from finding good books.
Ever feel like you’re invisible and wish you could be like people who seem to have it all? Well, this YA story combines reality and some magical elements to show only too well that we never know the real story about how the other half lives.
Annie Nutter is your typical high school student, a shy band member who’s just trying to make it through the day while crushing on boys who don’t even know she’s alive. Thank God for her best friend, Lizzie Kaufmann, because at least she has someone to commiserate with. Every day she gets slammed by whatever designer handbag or backpack the popular kids are carrying as they get on the bus and they never even notice that it happened. Yep, she’s totally invisible to the people who seem to count.
“Emerging like a god from the underworld, Shane Matthews climbs onto the bus, his adorable smile directed at someone behind and beneath him. Of course, almost the entire world population is beneath Shane…I look. And get a navy blue Adidas Velocity II backpack full of history and science textbooks right in the face…Of course, he doesn’t even look to see who he’s hit. Because to him, I am invisible.”
Annie lives with a family full of lovable nuts, with probably the foremost being her inventor father who works at Radio Shack. He’s always coming up with some utterly ridiculous invention or another – like the time he invented a toilet paper device she called the Rip Off or his Flip-Flop Beach Buddy, a.k.a., beach towel holders. Her mom, who sells real estate, is doing her best to support them but the financial strain is beginning to take a real toll.
Annie’s shocked to find her mom crying at Wal-Mart one day while looking at an Architectural Digest. Her mom was once involved with a single doctor whose house is showcased in the magazine and can’t help but wonder what her life would have been like if she had chosen Dr. Jim Monroe over Mr. Nutter. And that gets Annie thinking about what her life would have been like if Dr. Monroe had been her dad instead of the dad she has. Surely she would have been one of the privileged, popular kids if that had happened.
“Totally did not know Mom had a doctor boyfriend pre-Dad. I take another look at the magazine, and Jim. Not bad looking in a young Ben Stiller kind of way, maybe mid-forties. And, whoa, dripping in dollars. ‘Yowza, this guy’s loaded.’
She snorts softly. ‘Established net worth of over a billion.’
Holy crap. ‘With a B?’
‘Billion,’ she repeats, swiping some mascara and smearing it across her cheek. ‘Look at that house, Annie. Just look at it.’”
Annie’s mom can’t stop thinking about it, and neither can Annie, even when her dad announces that he’s finally invented something he thinks will actually succeed financially. When her dad tests out his newest invention for the family, he and her mom get into a horrendous fight. Through a fluke I won’t tell you about for spoiler reasons, Annie ends up becoming Ayla Monroe. Her mom is married to Dr. Monroe and Annie/Ayla’s one very rich, privileged kid. At first she thinks she must have hit her head or be dreaming but it’s soon apparent that she has really become Dr. Monroe’s daughter.
“As I take a step, something silky brushes my legs and I glance down, expecting to see my old striped sleep pants and SpongeBob tee. Instead, silver silk flows over my legs, a long…nightgown?…I lift the material to reveal my toes. Well, someone’s toes. Toes painted a bruising violet and decorated with teensy-tiny rhinestones in the shape of a teardrop. I wiggle; they move. They are my teardrop toes…I pinch the flesh of my arm, hard, and feel the pain. Does that mean I’m awake and this isn’t a dream?”
Annie/Ayla has all the material possessions that ten kids could want and she really is one of the most popular kids in school. And she’s a certifiable brat with best friends who qualify to star in any Mean Girls episode. Okay, so Annie has gotten what she thought she always dreamed of – what now? She isn’t like the Ayla her new friends and frenemies tell her about. Annie/Ayla has integrity and a sense of values. She also notices that her mother is completely miserable as Dr. Monroe’s wife – and Dr. Monroe treats them both like possessions instead of people. Ugh!
What is Annie going to do? Can she stand up for her principles and change the perception of Ayla? Can she still be popular if she does? Can she help mend her mom’s marriage to Dr. Monroe? Is there any way she can get back to her “real” family?
All of the characters are very well drawn. Annie/Ayla is someone I’d have liked as a friend when I was in high school, and I could completely empathize with her parents. Annie’s struggles with her values vs. being popular are very realistic and complex. There are no black-and-white villains in this story, although Dr. Monroe is not someone I’d ever like to meet. There is more than one love interest, of course, and one of them is definitely someone worthy of our Annie/Ayla while another is a complete jerk – not saying who for spoiler reasons. The numbers 143 will never be the same for me again.
Roxanne St. Claire has taken what could have been a light piece of fluff and really made it work in Don’t You Wish. I know that magically getting put into someone’s life may seem like a bit much to swallow but the device used works enough for us to suspend disbelief, and the consequences are very interesting on many different levels. If you’re looking for a fun read this summer, I think this one definitely qualifies!
Can’t wait to read it?
Don’t You Wish was published on July 10, 2012, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
I’d love to get your comments on Don’t You Wish, Roxanne St. Claire or her other work, and/or this review.
If you like this review, please “like” it, +1 it, and share it with your friends!