Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wish You Were Here

Have you ever read a book that frustrated you SO MUCH because you know that it could have been better? That was my experience with Beth K. Vogt's Wish You Were Here. I liked it up until the end, which just ticked me off in the worst way.

Allison and Seth are five days away from their wedding day. They dated for six years, and now it's time for them to finalize their commitment. Allison doesn't like her wedding dress, which she felt coerced into buying, and she isn't wild about the flowers. But she and Seth have been together for so long, and she does love him, so the obvious next step is marriage, right? Right? 

Well, not so fast. When Seth's older brother Daniel shows up to help her pack, an innocent farewell peck on the cheek turns into a passionate kiss. What will Allison do now? Quicker than you can say, "Runaway Bride," she heads in the wrong direction down the aisle.

So far, so good. It's a cute set up, and we can all see that Daniel is better for her than Seth. Her best friend Meghan puts it perfectly:

"Think about it. You let Seth make all the major decisions, from what dress you wore to our high school prom to where you were going for your honeymoon." Teal polish glinted off Meghan's nails when she pointed an accusatory finger at Allison. "You're a smart woman - except when Seth Rayner's in the picture. And he's been hogging the picture since you were sixteen."
 Seth, you see, is a major control freak, and he controls every aspect of Allison's life, from her college major to what she orders at a restaurant. He isn't a bad guy, though; Vogt does a good job letting us see that he is oblivious to his Machiavellian streak. And it's good that he's a character with depth and not rote or flat. Daniel, too, is fleshed out. Both may be predictable, but they aren't dull.

But then the problems come.

Vogt tells us why Allison enjoyed, if not needed, Seth's control. We also learn about how she coped with a painful period of her childhood. We understand her, and it makes sense to us. But quite suddenly, those issues are resolved with great alacrity and neatness. Allison's fractured relationship with someone in her family is mended with no explanation as to how. Why does she trust this person with seemingly such lack of hesitation? What about the way she soothes herself? Why does she suddenly stop? Or does she? We never really find out. And what about her relationship with God? Allison has questions for Him, and she struggles with relying on Him. One quick conversation with Meghan, though, and everything is fixed. It doesn't really work that way.

Look, Wish You Were Here has a sweet core. Allison and Daniel are adorable, and you will cheer for them. Daniel earns our sympathies and affections, and we cheer him on in his pursuit of her. But the ending feels cheap and forced. It's almost insulting, as if Vogt doesn't think we can handle the anguish that Allison surely suffers as she rights the listing ship of her life.

Here is a lesson for authors: do not sell your audience short. Don't assume that we want neat and happy. If you spend three fourths of a book giving us realism, don't patronize us at the end.

Published by Howard Books and available on
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.

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