cover image The Wish

The Wish

Gail Carson Levine. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027900-4

Levine (Ella Enchanted; the Princess Tales) turns from fairy godmothers in the Brothers Grimm era to modern-day magic in this provocative meditation on what it means to be popular. Eighth-grader Wilma Sturtz is a nice New York City girl, but she's not popular--until she gives up her seat on the subway to a feeble elderly woman who grants her one wish. ""I want to be the most popular kid at Claverford,"" Wilma tells the woman. Like many other books in this genre, the author explores the ramifications of ""be careful what you wish for,"" adhering to the exact wording of the wish and demonstrating the fallout after graduation day. But, as always, Levine adds a refreshing twist to the fairy tale model: because Wilma has integrity, she uses her popularity to benefit others besides herself. The heroine, acutely aware of her unconditional popularity, adheres to the quote she most appreciates from Hamlet, ""To thine own self be true."" Because Wilma remains Wilma despite her popularity, she ultimately discovers who her true friends are when the wish's magic concludes. A flesh-and-blood supporting cast of imminently recognizable clique fixtures, as well as the unpopular outsiders whom Wilma also befriends, will offer readers much to ponder in their own lives. Ages 8-12. (May)