cover image The Wishing Game

The Wishing Game

Meg Shaffer. Ballantine, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-59883-2

Shaffer blends tragedy and triumph in a whimsical and gratifying debut romance about what makes a family. At 13, Lucy Hart ran away from home to escape neglectful parents, wishing instead to live with Jack Masterson—the bestselling author of her favorite children’s books, the Clock Island series—on the real-life counterpart to Clock Island. That dream didn’t pan out. Now, 13 years later, she’s a kindergarten teacher’s aide desperate to adopt seven-year-old Christopher Lamb, an orphaned former student of hers, but she needs more money and greater stability in order to make it happen. Hugo Reese, Jack’s illustrator and surrogate son, is concerned when Jack abruptly comes out of a six-year retirement to invite Lucy and three other former runaways and superfans to Clock Island, where they’ll compete for the only copy of a brand new Clock Island book. Jack puts the contestants through a series of challenges and riddles designed to mimic the adventures in his books, and along the way, readers will come to root for all four to succeed—and for Hugo and Lucy to fall in love. Shaffer doesn’t shy away from the darkness in her characters’ backstories even as she delivers childlike wonder in spades. This is wish fulfilment in the best way. Agent: Amy Tannenbaum, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (May)