***I received a copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.***
Every Big & Little Wish by E.C. Moore
Published: October 20th, 2015 by Booktrope Publishing
Genres: Young adult, romance, suspense
Trigger Warnings: alcoholism, abuse, kidnapping, implied rape, stalking, drug use
Pages: 211 pgs.
Doesn’t qualify for any reading challenges.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Every Big and Little Wish, E.C. Moore’s young adult novel, opens in late spring 1970. Sixteen-year-old Jacy Wilbert’s Mom got promoted, so her parents sold their Victorian home in California and moved to a townhouse in Oregon.
Torn away from the only home she’s ever known and forced to leave her beloved German shepherd behind, Jacy now feels misplaced. Exacerbating an already terrible situation, her dad runs off with the bombshell real estate agent who sold them their townhouse. And, just when it seems things can’t get any worse, her mom loses the stupid job they left California for in the first place. As her mother drowns her sorrows with pink wine night after night, Jacy’s caught in the middle, struggling to maintain a relationship with her AWOL dad while tolerating his annoying, much-younger girlfriend.
Missing old friends back in California, and feeling like an outsider, Jacy needs to build a new social life in a new school. Not the sort of girl to wait around for what she wants to come her way, she sets her sights on Neil Wilder, the best-looking boy around.
Everything changes when Jacy Wilbert knocks on the wrong door.
I don’t appreciate being duped. Sincerely, I doubt that this was E.C Moore’s intention upon writing Every Big & Little Wish, but I can’t help but feel misled about the true contents of her novel. As much as I try to conjure up some sort of positive feelings on this book, I absolutely cannot. Based on the synopsis, this book had all of the makings of a truly enjoyable little flashback novel. Ultimately, the choppy narrative style, lack of real character development, and brazen attempts to be “edgy” just put me off of the novel altogether. Warning: this is NOT a spoiler-free review, so tread with caution.
Set in the early 1970s, Every Big & Little Wish is a small novel with big ambitions. In it, young Jacy Wilbert has only just arrived in Portland, Oregon as a transport from sunny Southern California. Her parents are in the middle of a divorce and her mom is slowly unraveling as she falls deeper into alcoholism. Jacy’s only solace comes in the form of the mysterious Neil Wilder; as she spends more and more time with him, she becomes further enveloped in his roller coaster of a life. After Neil’s brother, Casper, runs away from home following a fight, everything Jacy has come to know is turned upside down.
In the past, I’ve made it abundantly clear that I do not tolerate the use of rape as a plot device, as an “inevitability” in a female character’s life. Any time a character is raped as part of the story, I immediately become turned off; this book is no exception. The implied rape scene at the end of this novel should have had me throwing my phone against the wall in survivor’s anger, but iPhones are expensive, y’all, and I’m not going to do that. I did, however, question the line of thinking that even brought the story to this point in the first place. Months after Casper runs away and starts stalking Jacy, she is eventually kidnapped by a man he’s been working with. The kidnapper holds her captive for several weeks until he’s able to smuggle her out of Oregon, where he eventually rapes her in a dingy motel. Yes, Casper was known to have gotten involved into some sketchy business up to that point, but I doubt that someone as young and naive as he would agree to personally hand over his brother’s girlfriend so she could be kidnapped and raped. It really did not make any sense within the context of the story up until that part. If it weren’t so close to the end, I would have ceased reading the book at that point.
Stemming off of that, I had issues with the way in which the story was told. Instead of following a specific plot or having any real direction at all, Every Big & Little Wish is told in a series of short vignettes that shows readers snippets of Jacy’s world. The first two thirds of the novel, because of this style, feel aimless, pointless; it’s nothing more than Jacy and Neil kind of half-flirting with each other, her going back and forth between her warring parents, and escaping back to California for a short respite away from Oregon where she learns the meaning behind the titular big and little wishes (which don’t appear again). I might be missing the point here, I don’t know, but for a story to be so disjointed for such a significant portion of its length, then to randomly switch gears into a thriller with a somewhat cohesive plot line makes no sense. As much as I tend to enjoy alternative ways of telling a story (Hillary Frank’s I Can’t Tell You is a great one), it has to actually make sense and feel like something is being accomplished. At the end of the book, I still didn’t think anything had really been accomplished through all everyone had been through.
Of course, accomplishments can be tracked through character development, as well as plot progression. Despite everything that happened to her — finding her first love, navigating through her parents’ divorce, being fucking kidnapped — it truly doesn’t feel like Jacy grew any as a character. She still met people and things around her with the same aloofness that she held before, as if she just shrugged off the world like an ugly cardigan. Granted, I know that every survivor responds to their trauma differently, but it’s hard to believe that she could quickly compartmentalize everything to the point where she was calm in the face of her house being broken into in the final pages of the book. (Like, damn, I went through my event almost four years ago and I’m still going through therapy.) The only growth Neil went through was eventually realizing that Portland held nothing for him, resulting in his moving to Alaska. Just like Jacy, he kept everything at an arm’s length; it’s understandable to a point, given his familial history, but the only fleeting point of vulnerability seen within Neil’s character is when he drives Jacy to his hometown. Even that is temporary, because he changes his mind halfway through the trip. At least, at the end of it all, Casper is finally apprehended by police, thereby ending his weird crime spree.
While usually I try to find some entertainment value in all of the books I read, especially ones that roughly rubbed against the grain, I feel like I didn’t gain anything out of reading Every Big & Little Wish. Dare I say, this book was actually kind of a waste of time. With less growth in both plot and characterization than a lily pads in an arid climate and an extremely unnecessary side trip into a rape subplot, I think I’d do better reading the phone book.
Amazing Pug Scale: