The Seventh Wish - Kate Messner
Charlie feels like she's always coming in last. From her Mom's new job to her sister's life at college, everything seems more important than Charlie. Then one day while ice fishing, Charlie makes a discovery that will change everything . . . in the form of a floppy fish offering to grant a wish in exchange for freedom. Charlie can't believe her luck but soon realizes that this fish has a very odd way of granting wishes as even her best intentions go awry. But when her family faces a challenge bigger than any they've ever experienced, Charlie wonders if some things might be too important to risk on a wish fish.
I will admit that I picked this book up based on some unfortunate news about Messner being uninvited from speaking about her book because it discusses some more mature topics. Of course, I needed to read it to understand the bigger picture.
I really enjoyed this book. I found it to be sincere, painfully raw, and emotionally complex in a way that many middle grade books are not. Messner is not willing to pull punches, nor would I want her to. Charlie's sister is addicted to heroin, and it is this secondary story that was apparently too much for some people to accept in a novel for younger readers. I felt, however, that it is a subject dealt with deftly and with nuance. Though perhaps heavy-handed in parts, Charlie's narrative feels real and her ways of engaging with her family, friends, and life's more challenging moments are sometimes humorous, and sometimes more infuriating.
The Seventh Wish is part magical realism, but the magic never takes over the story, or diminishes Charlie's engagement with the world around her, and in fact makes her think twice about using magic to try and solve problems. There is definitely a lesson to be learned through this story, but it's not overly didactic and Messner keeps the novel from becoming emotionally manipulative or overly reliant on the magical elements.