Author Katherine Center grabbed my attention with Things You Save in a Fire. She has a knack for thoroughly developed characters, and her latest novel is no exception. Both the characters and the world they inhabit are impeccably crafted. Maybe too well, as it sent me virtually house hunting in Galveston! It may or may not have made me regret every decision that has led to me not being a school librarian at this utopia of a school three blocks away from a beach.
School librarian Sam is confronted with the past she fled four years ago when a former colleague begins teaching at her school in the aftermath of a personal tragedy. When he begins transforming their beautiful haven of a school with over the top security measures, Sam must overcome her past to stand up to him.
This novel is a light hearted read with more serious undertones touched on. Though tragic and heart-wrenching events have taken place prior to the novel’s timeline, they serve to provide emotional strife the characters must work through. Hard issues are tackled, but not in an overly heavy way.
I didn’t connect as deeply with the protagonist Sam as I did with the protagonist in Things You Save in a Fire, but an author deserves for their work to be evaluated on its own and not constantly compared with their prior work, so that’s more on me than anything else. I loved the secondary characters in this new novel, and hope a full novel about Babette or Alice is in the works!
The world these characters inhabit is lovingly crafted and feels realistic. From their beloved school to the unique cast of characters that make up the staff, I loved this fictional environment. It’s always enjoyable to watch characters learn and grow, even when they don’t realize its what they need.
The story is well paced and engaging; I wouldn’t be surprised to see the film rights optioned soon as well, as I think it would translate well to the screen. Warning: a side effect of this book is that you’ll be mentally shopping for clothes just like Sam’s. I loved her brightly colored ensembles and the metaphor that she had to believe in herself to transform from her old, beige and navy self into the colorful butterfly she was meant to be.
With a story full of growth, an adorable dog, and a precocious nine year old, Center’s What You Wish For is an enjoyable read that will leave you longing for a coastal lifestyle.
What You Wish For will be released July 14, 2020.
I’m grateful to Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an advanced reader’s copy such that I could write this review. Thank you!