The Seventh Wish
Bloomsbury, 2016 224 pgs
Charlie decides to join her friend Drew and his grandmother ice fishing, even though she's afraid of the ice, in order to earn a sparkly dress for her upcoming Irish dance competition. While staying cautiously close to shore, Charlie reels up a small fish with a sparkly eye. The fish pledges to grant her a wish if she lets it live. Charlie is no stranger to folklore and takes advantage of its offer. She wishes to loose her fear of the ice and to have a boy she is crushing on feel the same way about her. Both wishes come truth; although not in quite the way she hoped. Other encounters with the magic fish and ensuing wishes follow, each with predictably not-quite perfect result. Finally, when it is discovered that Charlie's older sister, Abby, who is away at college, is addicted to drugs the family needs more help than even a magic fish can deliver. Abby enters a rehab center and the family must focus on her recovery. Charlie's dance competitions and school projects are pushed aside as she and her parents lend support to help Abby get better. Eventually, Abby is released and seems back to her old self--mostly. Life resumes and Charlie once again attempts to move forward in the Irish Dancing ranks. The only problem is, recovery is not as easy as it sounds and there are no magical fixes to bring back Abby to the girl she once was.
Veteran author, Kate Messner, explores new territory not often featured in books for this audience. I have never encountered a book featuring ice fishing and the world of Irish Dancing and now feel as if I know a bit about both. I also have not encountered a book for this age group about heroin abuse and the terrible toll it takes on a family. I would love to say that this should not be a topic for middle readers, but anyone who follows the news knows that it is a very timely and crucial topic for young people. The statistics are staggering and more and more young people, lured in by seemingly harmless prescription drugs, are falling prey to its clutches. I picked up The Seventh Wish thinking it was a fun and frothy "be careful what you wish for" story. It starts out that way. When Charlie reels in the magic fish I got a delicious chill down my back knowing that the magic was starting. And then Messner changes gears on us. At first there are hints: a bag of strange powder in the car, bruises on her sister's arm. I was hoping that I was wrong as I was reading the clues, just as Abby's parents must have felt. Messner does not shy away from the devastating effects of heroin addiction on a family. She shows that it can happen to smart soccer stars from strong families. Is Messner luring readers into a message driven novel by the pull of a magic fish? Quite possibly, but with all of the young lives we are loosing to drug addiction in this country I applaud her attempts at enlightening young people of the realities of drug use. Coming from a family that has experienced the effects of addiction first hand, I know personally that there are no short cuts to recovery, even from a magic fish.