Published July 2020 by St. Martin's Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
Samantha Casey is a school librarian who loves her job, the kids, and her school family with passion and joy for living.
But she wasn’t always that way.
Duncan Carpenter is the new school principal who lives by rules and regulations, guided by the knowledge that bad things can happen.
But he wasn’t always that way.
And Sam knows it. Because she knew him before—at another school, in a different life. Back then, she loved him—but she was invisible. To him. To everyone. Even to herself. She escaped to a new school, a new job, a new chance at living. But when Duncan, of all people, gets hired as the new principal there, it feels like the best thing that could possibly happen to the school—and the worst thing that could possibly happen to Sam. Until the opposite turns out to be true. The lovable Duncan she’d known is now a suit-and-tie wearing, rule-enforcing tough guy so hell-bent on protecting the school that he’s willing to destroy it.
As the school community spirals into chaos, and danger from all corners looms large, Sam and Duncan must find their way to who they really are, what it means to be brave, and how to take a chance on love—which is the riskiest move of all.
This is my fourth Katherine Center book - I guess you could say I'm a fan. I've come to know what to expect from Center. There will be a love story, there will be great relationships between friends and family, there will be some heavy subject matter that never seems to weigh the book down, and there will be a happily-ever-after. Given the times we're living in right now, knowing that everything would be fine in the end is one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to review this book.
As with all of her books, Center has filled What You Wish For with humor - Sam's best friend is a math teacher who wears t-shirts every day with math jokes on them, Sam dresses like Ms. Frizzell from The Magic School Bus, and the dialogue often felt like it was straight out of a rom-com movie. It's not all fun - Center tackles divorce, the struggles of having epilepsy, death, and school shootings. But Center never touches on the tough subjects without also offering hope. The message here is that we should all "pay attention to the things that connect you to joy."
"'What does joy have to do with anything?' 'Joy is important.' Was it? I don't know...[j]oy seems pretty expendable. But Max just smiled. 'It's one of the secrets to life that no one ever tells you. Joy cures everything.'...'Joy is an antidote to fear. To anger. To boredom. To sorrow.' 'But you can't just decide to feel joyful.' 'True. But you can decide to do something joyful.'"Isn't that what we've all been trying to do lately? Having to decide to do something joyful? Center suggests that it can be as simple as wearing fun cloths:
"I wasn't hiding anymore. I was a lady with a flower hat now. Faced with darkness, I had chosen flowers. And polka dots. And light."I loved that message; I needed that message right now. It was enough to keep me reading even though I didn't entirely buy on to the reason Sam left the school she used to work work and even when, at times, it felt like Duncan's and Sam's relationship went forward and backward a little too much. I cared about these characters and I wanted them to heal and find the happiness. And light.