Don’t You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on July 10 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 3/5 stars
Plain and unpopular Annie Nutter gets zapped by one of her dad's whacked-out inventions into a parallel universe Ayla Monroe - gorgeous, rich queen bee of her high school. In glitzy Miami, her different billionaire dad supplies money but is absent. Friends hit the clubs, party backstage at concerts, and take risks that are exhilarating, and illegal. Ayla has a date to lose her V-card with the hottest guy she's ever seen, but she's still Annie on the inside. Will she take the chance to leave the dream life and head back to dreary Pittsburgh?
Annie Nutter isn’t impressed with the lot she’s be dealt by fate. She’s picked on by her peers (early in the book the boy Annie and her best friend Lizzie have been pining over asks Annie, on a dare, if she has a date to homecoming, because his dog is “looking for looking for someone to hump that night”), she wears braces and has a body like a piece of 2x4, and is living pretty much on the poverty line. Her father, an inventor who works at Radioshack, is a hoarder, which embarrasses Annie and she even notes a hesitance to invite friends over because of the mess.
She never expected to get transported into an alternate universe in which Annie Nutter no longer exists. Annie is now Ayla Monroe, daughter of plastic surgery franchise honcho Jim Monroe, who Annie’s mother dated in high school and, in this universe, went on to marry. While Ayla’s life seems glamorous, it’s completely devoid of emotional connections.
I wasn’t expecting too much when I started reading Don’t You Wish. It’s an interesting concept, but I think it’s something that has been explored before. It was a pretty standard “be careful what you wish for” cautionary tale. It was a bit preachy at times, and I thought that Annie-as-Ayla changed much too quickly. I would have liked to see Annie play out Ayla’s life a bit more. The only truly “bad” thing Annie does as Ayla is cheat off of another girl’s history test, and even then she stops partway through. I would have liked to see a bit more of a battle between doing the right thing and doing the easy/fun thing.
Dislikes aside, there were some things that I really appreciated about Don’t You Wish. I thought the science-y explanation behind Annie’s travel through realities were clever and well thought out (though I have no idea of the actual logic behind them). I liked that Annie’s family wasn’t a perfect sitcom family – they had problems and they fought and sometimes they were unhappy, but on a whole they were okay. There were some things that I really liked in the book that I thought should have been touched on a bit more, particularly Mel Nutter’s hoarding tendencies and Annie’s comment of “What did we do to turn him into a hoarder?” and Missy’s disability. I thought they were very refreshing things that don’t occur often in YA books, but I wish they had been given a bit more focus. Not that the whole book should have been about Mel’s hoarding or Missy being a quadriplegic, but for such serious, heavy matters, they were tossed in without much regard or weight.
I did think that the main characters (Annie and Charlie) were well executed. Annie was a bit naïve and grated on my nerves sometimes, but she felt like a fully developed character. Charlie was great – a romantic interest in a YA book who is not only adorable but is also a genuinely amazing person.
All that said, I was gravely disappointed by the conclusion. It was too tidy and too coincidental. I wish there had been some actual gravity behind the decision Annie had to make between staying in Ayla’s world or returning to Annie’s.