This is one of those books with an awesome premise. I mean, who can resist a small town with a big secret? Especially when that secret is kind of magical.
In Madison, a dead-end town in the middle of the Nevada desert, every citizen gets a wish on their eighteenth birthday. And that wish always comes true.
Eldon is close to that milestone day, but unlike everyone else around him, he has no idea what to wish for. His parents want him to wish for money so he can help dig them out of the financial hole they are in and pay for more extensive medical treatment for his younger sister who is in a coma in a nursing home outside of town.
Eldon knows nothing can save his sister now she's left Madison. There are strict rules guiding what people can and can't wish for and all wishes have to be pre-approved by the town's overbearing mayor. Wishing for something that will alert the outside world to Madison and its secrets is strictly forbidden.
Which means most people's wishes are small. And, as Eldon discovers as he starts asking people about their wishes, most people's wishes don't make them happy. Look at his own parents. His father wished to be the best football player only to be horribly injured and permanently disabled just a few years later, while his mother wished for his father's undying love, something she has, but no longer wants.
As his wishing day grows closer, Eldon asks more people in town about their wishes and discovers very few people are actually happier as a result of their wishes. Some of his friends have already made their wishes and are already questioning whether they have made the right one, while one of his classmates makes a rash decision at the last moment with her wish, and may have destroyed two lives as a result.
When some outsiders turn up in town asking about the wishing, Eldon makes a rash decision that may change his life forever.
I actually enjoyed this book. Eldon was not the most likable protagonist - he's selfish and kind of stuck up, a little arrogant - but I enjoyed his journey and felt like I understood his reasons for being a bit of a prick. It must be hard to be those few months younger than your peers and watch them become popular and handsome and smart and athletic overnight. All the things Eldon was naturally, suddenly being artificially taken over once they've made their wish.
And he clearly was very close to his sister and misses her. Her whole family is broken as a result of her accident and this is heightened by the unnatural relationship between Eldon's parents.
Given this book takes place just down the road from Area 51, I felt like it missed an opportunity to draw from that and make the wishing cave something more than just random magic. And the ending wasn't really satisfying, even if it did feel realistic.
So I'd recommend, especially if you like your magic grounded in grim reality.
But don't just listen to me. Here's the blurb:What if you could ask for anything- and get it?
In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.
Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.