Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books
Date of publication: May 30th, 2023
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Magical Realism, Books About Books, Contemporary, Adult, Mystery, Adult Fiction, Mystery Thriller
Years ago, a reclusive mega-bestselling children’s author quit writing under mysterious circumstances. Suddenly he resurfaces with a brand-new book and a one-of-a-kind competition, offering a prize that will change the winner’s life in this absorbing and whimsical novel.
Make a wish. . . .
Lucy Hart knows better than anyone what it’s like to grow up without parents who loved her. In a childhood marked by neglect and loneliness, Lucy found her solace in books, namely the Clock Island series by Jack Masterson. Now a twenty-six-year-old teacher’s aide, she is able to share her love of reading with bright, young students, especially seven-year-old Christopher Lamb, who was left orphaned after the tragic death of his parents. Lucy would give anything to adopt Christopher, but even the idea of becoming a family seems like an impossible dream without proper funds and stability.
But be careful what you wish for. . . .
Just when Lucy is about to give up, Jack Masterson announces he’s finally written a new book. Even better, he’s holding a contest at his home on the real Clock Island, and Lucy is one of the four lucky contestants chosen to compete to win the one and only copy.
For Lucy, the chance of winning the most sought-after book in the world means everything to her and Christopher. But first she must contend with ruthless book collectors, wily opponents, and the distractingly handsome (and grumpy) Hugo Reese, the illustrator of the Clock Island books. Meanwhile, Jack “the Mastermind” Masterson is plotting the ultimate twist ending that could change all their lives forever.
. . . You might just get it.
Every night Hugo went for a walk on the Five O’Clock Beach, but tonight was the first time in five years his wandering feet spelled out an SOS in the sand.The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer
Lucy’s entire childhood was made up of neglect and loneliness. Her parents were more committed to her sick older sister than to paying attention to their youngest daughter. Lucy’s one solace was the Clock Island series written by Jack Masterson. Years later, Lucy is a teacher’s aide living in California, introducing a new generation to the joy of reading. One of those students is seven-year-old Christopher, whose parents died and who Lucy wants to foster to adopt. But that dream is out of reach since Lucy doesn’t have the money or means to pursue that dream. But things change when Jack Masterson comes out of retirement with the announcement that he has written a new book. Also, in that announcement, there will be a contest that will determine the winner. The contestants: Adults who had run away to the real Clock Island when they were children, and Lucy is one of them. Lucy is determined to win but must first dodge book collectors on the island illegally, opponents who will do whatever it takes to win, and handsome Hugo, the illustrator of Jack’s books. Will Lucy win? Will she be able to adopt Christopher and live happily ever after?
When I first read the blurb for The Wishing Game, I immediately compared it to Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The only difference is that Jack is an author, not a candy maker, and the contestants are adults, not children. I figured I wouldn’t get it if I requested it from NetGalley, so I left it alone. Imagine my surprise when I got an invite from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine asking if I wanted to read the book. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
The Wishing Game is a medium-paced book in California and Maine. The pacing of this book suited the plotline. I didn’t have to backtrack to the beginning of a chapter to figure out what was going on. I also loved that it took place in Maine. I am familiar with coastal Maine and thought it was a perfect setting for The Wishing Game.
The main storyline of The Wishing Game centers around Lucy and Hugo. Lucy is a teacher’s aide who wants no more than to adopt seven-year-old Christopher. The first couple of chapters of The Wishing Game laid the foundation for that. The other part of the storyline centers around Hugo. Like Lucy, his past shaped him into who he was. Both parts of the storyline were well-written and kept my attention.
Several secondary storylines fleshed out the main storyline. The one that stood out the most to me was Lucy’s early childhood. That storyline explains why Lucy came across as almost needy when it came to Jack’s attention. It also explained why she made some bad mistakes when she was younger. The resolution to that storyline was heartbreaking. Another secondary storyline that stood out to me was Hugo and his relationship with his younger brother. It sheds new light on Hugo, why he was on the island with Jack, and why Hugo felt responsible for Jack. While reading it, my heart shattered several times, but it also made me happy.
Lucy went through significant growth during The Wishing Game. At the beginning of the book, she is bitter about her past, about not being able to adopt or even foster Christopher, about her life—-bitter about everything. She was allowed to be upset. What I liked was that she didn’t wallow in it. Instead, she turned that bitterness into action when she found out she was in the contest. She was determined to win. I liked how she immediately clicked with Jack. For her, it was like she was finally coming home. By the end of the book, she had discarded that bitterness (a huge scene detailed it), and she became the person she was meant to be.
Hugo wasn’t my favorite character when I started the book. He was rude and abrasive. Hugo was rude to Jack. But as the book went on, it was explained why he was so prickly. The author took her time explaining everything but dropped enough hints that I figured out most of what happened. It still didn’t take away from me getting emotional when it was revealed. Hugo didn’t exactly do a 180 by the time the book ended. Instead, it was more like an onion being peeled, with more depth underneath than initially hinted at.
I enjoyed Jack’s character. Again, he was another character who had so much depth to him. When Jack was introduced, he came across as a kindly children’s author who suffered a tragedy that kept him on his island. But, as the story went on, the more in-depth the author got into Jack’s character. I will not drop spoilers and tell you guys what his backstory is. I will only say this: Jack overcame his upbringing to become what he was. He also couldn’t be himself because of what he thought society would think (and that got me so angry). The author also included the entire 100 books that Jack wrote. I know they are fictional, but I hope the author decides to write them. From the excerpts that the author wrote, I was very interested in them. I also liked the riddles and puzzles that he came up with. He had me guessing the answers along with the contestants.
The end of The Wishing Game surprised me. Remember how I said this book initially reminded me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Up until the end of the contest, I kept seeing the similarities. Then the author did a quick 180, and any resemblance ended. I won’t say what happened, but I was shocked. I will also say that Jack is a very good man who tortured himself over things he had no control over.
I would recommend The Wishing Game to anyone over 16. This is a clean book with no sex or sexual situations. There is mild violence and language.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Meg Shaffer for allowing me to read and review The Wishing Game. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of The Wishing Game, then you will enjoy reading these books: