Book Review: What You Wish For by Katherine Center - a cute, easy women's fiction novel

Book Review: What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Title: What You Wish For

Author: Katherine Center

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication date: July 14, 2020

Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Summary: Samantha Casey is the librarian at the Kempner School where the founder and principal Max Kempner believes in making school joyful. It’s an incredible, warm, colorful school that’s really focused on the students’ needs. Until Max dies and the board installs a new principal, someone from Sam’s past. She remembers Duncan Carpenter as being fun, silly, and colorful, but the man she comes face to face with is anything but. War between him and the teachers ensue, but Max’s widow has a card up her sleeve and, maybe, Duncan isn’t quite the stick in the mud he seems to be.

The Characters: Colorful and Joyful

For the most part, I really enjoyed the characters. They were given fun and interesting personalities and I liked that the main characters each had a history that drove them. They were a delightful mix and I loved the antics Sam, Max’s widow Babette, and math teacher Alice whipped up.

At the beginning of the book, I didn’t like Sam much, but she started to grow on me. I felt like she seemed to think she was better than and more capable than everyone else just because she was the Kempners’ tenant and spent a lot of time with them. She seemed to constantly be “innocently” provoking their daughter Tina, and I just really couldn’t understand it. She felt like an interloper and I couldn’t help but cringe. But then more of her life was revealed and the reader got to know her, just her on her own, and she suddenly became someone who tried hard every single day to be brave. She’s had a tough life, one full of pain and hurt, but has taken Max’s message to heart: to live with joy. I liked that I could see pieces of myself in her. She’s a good sport, but overthinks too much. At the same time, she really cares and loves with her whole heart, until it gets too personal.

My favorite characters were Sam’s friends, Babette and Alice. Babette, as Max’s wife, felt something like a maternal figure to her. She was calm and thoughtful, but full of life and color even with being widowed. She felt real with her love for her school and her grief and I loved seeing how she balanced it all. Alice was so much fun. I wouldn’t mind having a best friend like her. She was straightforward and always got through things with a smile. I loved that she always wore a shirt with a math joke, but I wish more of the jokes had been mentioned in the book.

I hate to say I’m on the fence about Duncan. As the love interest, he both felt perfect for Sam and kind of cookie cutter. He’s the guy who need to be reworked so he’s more human, but, at the same time, there’s a whole history to him that wasn’t mentioned until the end, but was so easy to spot as a reader. It often made me incredibly frustrated with the other characters and made me wonder time after time if they were just too absorbed in their own problems to see what was really going on. I liked that Duncan was clearly warring with the two sides of himself, but it also felt too easy. Still, I couldn’t help but think he was adorable and some of his scenes with Sam were just too sweet.

The Setting: Seaside in Texas

This book takes place on a small island in Texas. I didn’t really get a Texas vibe from the book and, honestly, kept forgetting it was set in Texas. I did like that it was on an island. It felt cozy and fun with the ocean literally right there.

What I really loved, though, was the school. The author really took her time to explore the whole school and what made it so unique and joyful. If I were a student there, I wouldn’t ever want to leave. The library alone made me wish this place could be real! It was so easy and clear to see how much everyone loved it. It was beautiful and joyful. Honestly, the school really made this book for me. I can’t say I loved it enough.

The Plot: Perfect Women’s Fiction

This really fits the women’s fiction genre. There’s the young woman finding herself even though she seems to have found herself already and there’s the romance and the friendship. I did feel the friendship suffered a little as the romance really took over, though.

The romance was sweet, and cute. It did feel like most of the book was focused on it. But, still, it was sweet and cute. Definitely very clean. And super cute. I did enjoy those romance scenes, but, they also seemed to go on and on for chapters. It was sometimes jarring to return to the greater story since they really were drawn out scenes.

The one thing that really bothered me was Tina. I felt like she should have had a bigger role, that maybe more of the book could have been devoted to her relationship with Sam instead of Sam’s romance with Duncan. Too often I just completely forgot she existed, and then she would be slipped in and it would be a while again until she’s seen once more. There was so much that could have been done with her. I liked the end, but it also felt too much like an about face.

Overall, the story flowed well. It was easy to read, nice and breezy. It’s a sweet story, and very cute. There was some depth to it, but it mostly felt like a fluffy read. I did like that the characters’ histories felt like they were effortlessly woven throughout and they came out at the right times. At the same time, this isn’t anything groundbreaking; just a fun book to read.

Overall: Super Cute

Overall, I liked it. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t fantastic. It was cute. There were some things I wish had been more explored, pieces I wished had been expanded on, but, overall, this was just such an easy book to breeze through. I think I just kept reading because I adored the relationship between Sam and Duncan and really loved Alice, but everything else wasn’t quite as interesting. I was most disappointed with the big scenes at the end as they felt a little disjointed and thrown in for some drama, but this really isn’t a bad story. It’s sweet and cute.

How many cups of tea will you need?

3 will be fine

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Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

Stop by the Bookshelf for more of my reviews.

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