Review Blog

Dec 15 2010

Careful what you wish for by Maureen McCarthy

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2010. ISBN 9781741758573.
(Age 10-12) Recommended. Aimed at younger readers, Careful what you wish for is an intriguing blend of fantasy and realism. Ruth dislikes her family life, which she considers is messy and troublesome. Her two brothers annoy her and she feels that she always comes in second place to them. The only person with whom she had a real rapport was her aunt, Mary Ellen, but she developed cancer and passed away. Before she died she gave Ruth a strange little rat that they named Rodney. But does Rodney have strange powers or is he just a toy?
Ruth has to make some hard decisions when Rodney gives her three chances to create her perfect life. If she doesn't like where she is, then all she has to do is find the red door and return to her own world. As you can imagine, trusting a rat to make a perfect world is risky as Ruth finds out when she goes to live with the perfect family. When she decides to have no family at all she finds herself in a 1950's Catholic convent boarding school, and when she decides to become famous, she discovers all the perils of being a celebrity.
I found this to be a well-written, engrossing page-turner. Children will identify with Ruth and her disgust with her eccentric parents and annoying brothers and will want to ponder what wishes they would make if they wanted a better life. Vivid characterisation made me empathise with Ruth's grief over the loss of her aunt. Her friend Howard Pope is an intriguing character. Although dishonest, his family life is appalling and readers will want to know just what happens to him, so perhaps a sequel is being signalled.
With its themes of recognising whom your friends are and appreciating your family, Careful What You Wish For is sure to appeal.
Pat Pledger

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