Best Wishes by Sarah Mlynowski. Scholastic Press, 2022. 9781338628258
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Format: ARC (publication date 9/6/22)
Genre: Magical realism
What did you like about the book? Fifth grader Becca has been looking forward to celebrating her birthday with her best (and only) friend Harper, with their traditional sleepover and some tie-dye fun. So she is really crushed when Harper tells her before school one morning that she can’t make it due to a chess tournament and a commitment to another friend, Georgette. In fact, Harper indicates that maybe she and Becca aren’t best friends anymore, just “regular friends.” That’s just the start of a pretty lousy school day for Becca, who has forgotten her homework and later accidentally locks herself in the bathroom. Despondent, she returns home after school to find a mysterious package addressed to her in unfamiliar handwriting. The box contains a pretty bracelet and a cryptic poem that implies that the bracelet will grant her a wish, and instructs her to send it on when it is no longer needed. Becca is skeptical, but after another upsetting morning at school, she takes a chance and wishes that everyone was her friend.
Her wish instantly comes true; popular classmates invite her to sit with them at lunch, strangers say hi in the hallway, and she gets an A+ on a quiz from her strict teacher. Becca is so happy – her healthy, kosher mom allows pizza for dinner, her older brother asks her to play a game with him, and even Harper seems to want to rekindle their BFF status. Predictably, Becca’s newfound popularity gets a little out of hand as kids compete for her attention and so many people show up at her birthday party that she tries to hide out in her bedroom. Becca tries to remove the bracelet in hopes of stopping the spell but it won’t come off; meanwhile, a mysterious woman seems to be stalking her and tries to buy the bracelet from her. It takes the magic of true friendship to unlock the bracelet and understand its power.
Becca tells her story as she is writing it in a letter to an unknown girl named Addie, presumably the bracelet’s next recipient. (A foreword from the author indicates that this is the first book in a series about the wish bracelet, and that subsequent books will be co-written by authors who will voice new characters who receive the bracelet and correspond with Becca). Becca’s narration is funny and sincere, and readers will empathize with her social anxiety and her desire to be popular, as well as the challenge she faces in maintaining a relationship with her father, who has recently moved from New York City to California. Magical elements do not overshadow the realistic theme of this coming-of-age friendship story, but add just the right amount of levity. The magic is enhanced by fun details in the grayscale illustrations, which also depict a diverse cast of characters. This is a promising start to a new fantasy series from a very popular author.
Anything you did not like about the book? No
To whom would you recommend this book? The Best Wishes series will have a ready-made audience of Mlynowski’s Upside-Down Magic and Whatever After books, and will also be appealing to fans of authors like Wendy Mass, Natalie Lloyd, or Liz Kessler.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: September 1, 2022