Instead, for various reasons, my father accepted a job at a hospital in Western New York (the same hospital where I was born,) and they remained in the US, becoming citizens in 1981.
My parents’ decision to stay in the US and raise their children in the Rust Belt has been the root of the most enduring “what if” of my life:
What if my parents had returned to Korea and I had been raised there, on that tiny peninsula on the other side of the world?
What kind of person would I be?
Would anything about my personality, my beliefs, that which I consider to be the core of my being, be the same?
Or would the difference in culture have resulted in a completely different person, unrecognizable from the person I see in the mirror everyday?
But while I find myself curious about the idea of parallel lives and universes, I am FAR too lazy to study quantum physics and the actual scientific possibilities of their existence. (Research + controlled experiments + advanced gobbledegook science = *shudder*)
So instead, I indulge in cheesy forms of entertainment that explore the idea of,
What if I was THAT person, instead of the person that I am and lived in THAT world instead of this one?
I especially adore silly, campy movies like Freaky Friday (the original Jodie Foster version AND Lindsay Lohan/Jaime Lee Curtis remake, but not so much the made-for-TV 1990’s Gaby Hoffman/Shelley Long remake), The Parent Trap (both versions), Labyrinth, and 13 going on 30.
And, if you can believe it, my love for Australian TV existed long before my discovery of the fabulosity that is Aussie YA lit in the form of the show Spellbinder, in which a teenager named Paul finds himself transported to and trapped in a regressed, parallel version of Australia and must find a way to get back to his version of the world.
So I was of course full of glee when I learned of Don’t You Wish, Roxanne St. Claire’s first foray into the YA category after a prolific career as an adult romantic suspense novelist.
I rubbed my hands together in giddy anticipation and had my checklist of Requirements for Campy, Body-Switching Storylines at the ready as I queued up the galley on my Kindle.
- A teenager who needs to be taught a lesson or is suffering from an unfair punishment, humiliation from which he/she will NEVER EVER RECOVER, and/or parents who just don’t understand.
- A wish or daydream about ideal circumstances, usually involving wealth, popularity, and zero work
- A magical or zany scientific fulfillment of said wish that cannot be mimicked in a lab but just happens to work for that one moment for that one teenager, usually while said teenager is asleep.
- Utter confusion, then childish glee when teenager wakes up and discovers his/her new circumstances.
- Hijinks as the teenager fumbles and faux-pas through their new circumstances and somehow manages to transform his/her flubs into kooky triumphs that result in increased popularity.
- Disappointment as teenager realizes that the grass isn’t always greener in the other universe.
- Homesickness for original universe
- An attempt to find someone in new universe that will not think teenager is a complete loon AND can help return teenager to original universe.
- Scary/emotional moment where teen believes he/she will never be able to get home and will be stuck in the new universe FOREVER.
- Climactic moment as teen recreates circumstances to return to original universe.
- Teen confuses parents by savagely hugging them upon return and saying how much he/she missed them.
- Happy ending as teen’s meets doppelganger of whoever helped them in the other universe in their original universe.
Thankfully, Roxanne St. Claire does not deviate from the cherished body-switching formula in Don’t You Wish.
The main character and narrator, Annie Nutter, is a plain, unpopular orchestra geek whose seat at the front of the school bus lends itself to her being whacked in the face by the other students’ backpacks as they turn from the stairs to the aisle. She lives in a lower-middle-class neighborhood with her constantly belching younger brother, her hoarder/nutty hobbyist inventor father, and her stressed-out real estate agent mother.
On the fateful body-switching day, Annie finds her mother crying in a Wal-Mart aisle over a magazine that features the opulent Miami home of Dr. James Monroe, her billionaire ex-boyfriend. Understandably, this leads Annie to ponder the what-ifs of her life: What if her mom had chosen James Monroe and Annie was their daughter? What kind of person would she be? And the scariest thought of all, what if her mom regrets choosing her dad and decides to get a divorce?
The convergence of these musings and her dad’s latest invention involving a mirror that reflects what you wish you looked like, rather than the reality, results in Annie getting beamed from dreary Pittsburgh to a parallel universe where she is Ayla Monroe, beautiful, wealthy beyond belief and, as she learns, the Queen Bee of her Miami high school who somehow manages to make Regina George look like Mother Theresa.
While the predictable nature of the plot would point towards a rote, mundane book, Roxanne St. Claire infuses Don’t You Wish with charm, wit, and a character who is so easy to root for in Annie Nutter.
Therefore, even though I could see where the plot was eventually going, I found myself so invested in Annie’s ensuing escapade and dilemmas. Would Annie embrace Ayla’s life as a mean girl? Or would she temper it due to her own experiences and humiliations as a nobody? Should she find a way to get back to her old life or adjust her new one?
Ultimately, I felt enamored and rewarded by Don’t You Wish as Annie goes from being a nobody, to becoming an unfamiliar somebody, to understanding that no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the pressures around her, there are portions of her life that she can and should control. I even found myself emphatically nodding in agreement as if Annie’s romantic interest, Charlie Zelinsky, was talking directly to me when he tells her,
You might be one of the luckiest people in the world. You get to see both sides and make a choice.
Because while there are times that I ponder the what-ifs of my life, there are many more when I take control of my life’s direction, which every person, whether they are a teenager or adult, needs to learn how to do at some point. Perhaps reading Don’t You Wish, if people can get past the (charming) cheese and fluff, will help lead them there.
FNL Character Rating: Matt Saracen, when he leaves Dillon for Chicago in Season 4.
Don’t You Wish will be published on July 10, 2012 and is available for preorder now.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley; no goodies or other compensation were received in exchange for this honest review.