"The story’s message, that people should choose joy even (and especially) in difficult and painful times, seems tailor-made for this moment. A timely, uplifting read about finding joy in the midst of tragedy, filled with quirky characters and comforting warmth."—Kirkus (starred review)
From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel full of heart and hope.
Samantha Casey is a school librarian who loves her job, the kids, and her school family with passion and joy for living.
But she wasn’t always that way.
Duncan Carpenter is the new school principal who lives by rules and regulations, guided by the knowledge that bad things can happen.
But he wasn’t always that way.
And Sam knows it. Because she knew him before—at another school, in a different life. Back then, she loved him—but she was invisible. To him. To everyone. Even to herself. She escaped to a new school, a new job, a new chance at living. But when Duncan, of all people, gets hired as the new principal there, it feels like the best thing that could possibly happen to the school—and the worst thing that could possibly happen to Sam. Until the opposite turns out to be true. The lovable Duncan she’d known is now a suit-and-tie wearing, rule-enforcing tough guy so hell-bent on protecting the school that he’s willing to destroy it.
As the school community spirals into chaos, and danger from all corners looms large, Sam and Duncan must find their way to who they really are, what it means to be brave, and how to take a chance on love—which is the riskiest move of all.
With Katherine Center’s sparkling dialogue, unforgettable characters, heart, hope, and humanity, What You Wish For is the author at her most compelling best.
Center's quirky story (after Things You Save in a Fire) follows offbeat librarian Samantha Casey, who's found the tight-knit family she's always longed for and a place to call home in a small Texas beach town. The Kempner School, where she works, is a bright, cheery place, and principal Max Kempner sparks joy at every turn until his sudden death from a pulmonary embolism. When Sam hears the news about Max's replacement, Duncan Carpenter, she remembers Duncan as a former fellow teacher, crush, and all-around "human mood-enhancer." Sam sings Duncan's praises as an ideal replacement until Duncan swoops in and declares the school a security "nightmare" that he is determined to make a model of safety and security through a series of extreme measures. Soon, Sam schemes with the school's cofounder Babette, Max's widow, to stage a "Joy-bomb" intervention, forcing Duncan to eat a sundae each day and perform juggling in front of the students at lunchtime in exchange for the privilege of keeping his job, in hopes of unearthing the fun Duncan and saving the school. In the process, Sam's old crush on Duncan reignites. The cast of eccentric supporting characters adds to a fast-paced tale steeped with whimsical, yet sometimes outlandish, plot points. This is one for the beach bag.
Joy On Purpose
If you’ve read anything by Katherine Center you know that she writes characters who overcome and rise up and this book is no different. This books is all about joy…and tragedy…but mostly joy…and also… yeah, tragedy. Hah
This book will make you think about joy in a whole new way. In the best way.
“𝘍𝘢𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘥𝘢𝘳𝘬𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴, 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘯 𝘧𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘴. 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘱𝘰𝘭𝘬𝘢 𝘥𝘰𝘵𝘴. 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵.”
“𝘐𝘵’𝘴 𝘢 𝘥𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘫𝘰𝘺. 𝘐𝘵’𝘴 𝘢 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘤𝘪𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘫𝘰𝘺. 𝘐𝘵’𝘴 𝘫𝘰𝘺 𝘰𝘯 𝘱𝘶𝘳𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦.”
I loved reading about the sheer emotional agony Sam endures over her crush and her decision to choose joy every day. She loves Duncan but can’t have him. It’s torture and delight and she has to literally distance herself from him just to be able to move on.
Later in the story we learn more about Sam’s backstory and why she is the way she is and that helped me sympathize with her position. I felt awful for her and hopeful at the same time. Duncan lost himself and even though I was able to guess what circumstances he must have been trying to overcome, it was so sad to hear about his complete transformation in personality. Tragedy will do that to a person I suppose. I loved hearing Duncan’s retellings of the first time they met and his dopey confessions. I was so embarrassed for him!
The pace of the story really picked up in the second half and I was glad they finally got their act together in the end!
One of the most positive, lovely, honest books I have ever read. Wonderful characters and character development.
What You Wish For
This is a wonderful book that pulls you in and makes you want to stay! I can’t wait to read the next book, Happiness for Beginners!