The Wish List opens with fourteen-year-old Meg Finn dying. As she drifts through the tunnel to the afterlife, her aura glows purple–a 50/50 blend of red (bad–go directly to Hell) and blue (good–go directly to the Pearly Gates). This highly unusual circumstance results in her being sent back to Earth, not as a living human, but as a sort of ghost. Her actions during her return will tip the balance and determine her final destination.
This story was especially relevant to me because one of my critique partners is writing a ghost story, and our group briefly discussed whether ghostly possessions were appropriate for middle-grade readers. Meg possesses a body during her return.
Another critique group member is writing a YA story about the afterlife, the journey to it, and the characters in it. It’s good to see what’s already been done.
The story was good, but what I liked best was the writing, i.e., the way the story was told. Fine threads of humor wind around parts that might be gruesome, shocking, scary, or depressing. Colfer had me from chapter one: I smiled and chuckled as Meg died. No kidding.
Much of the humor is subtle and dry; for instance, the kinds of people who populate Hell. I suspect some of it would go over the heads of young readers, but some of the funny details might stick with readers and generate ah-ha moments in the future when they are better understood. No one can say Colfer writes down to his audience.
This is a great book on audio. The characters are Irish, and the reader’s accents sound perfect to my admittedly untrained ears.