The Seventh Wish
Bloomsbury USA Children's, 2016
Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Family, Drug Abuse
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
All Charlie wants is a new Irish dance dress for her upcoming competition--and a little more attention from her parents. This year is a little rough because her sister Abby just started college and Charlie is used to having her there. With her next door neighbor and his grandma, she starts ice fishing in hopes of selling the fish to earn money for her dress. When she catches her first fish it's small and calls out to her to release it in exchange for a wish. Charlie wishes, not expecting anything to happen, but when her wish does come true it's not exactly the wish she had wanted. Willing to try again, Charlie starts making wishes to help her friends, but they aren't exactly working. Then her sister comes home from college and things are suddenly pulled out from under Charlie when she finds out that Abby is battling a drug addiction. Can her wishes help cure her sister and make everything the way it used to be?
I loved this book. Charlie is your typical middle school student. She is focused on school and dance and wants more of her parents' attention. When her dance competition is pushed aside for her parents' work and personal commitments, she accepts it, but she's not happy about it. She wants to be with her friends and do a good job on her science project. When Charlie and her parents discover that Abby is addicted to heroin, life gets harder. Now instead of spending Sundays working on her science project and going to dance class, Charlie is at Abby's rehab for visitors' day. Instead of worrying about dance and homework, she's worrying about if her sister will get better.
This book is a great look at what it's like to have a family struggling with an addiction. It's not just Abby struggling; her entire family is having a hard time as well. Charlie is embarrassed to tell her friends what's going on and she's having problems getting her homework done on the weekends. Another dance competition is coming up and she desperately wants to go, but she won't be able to if Abby is still in rehab. Her parents are trying to get insurance to pay for the program that Abby is in and everyone is trying to understand how this happened.
Kate Messner has taken a very serious and difficult topic and woven it into Charlie's life. Ultimately this book isn't about drug addiction, but about a girl who really wants a new dress for dance so she can move up to the next level. It's about Charlie, who is trying to wish all the bad stuff away for her friends and herself and realizing that it doesn't really work that way.
Abby's addiction is presented in a way that is appropriate for middle grade readers and it's very likely that kids will relate to what Charlie experiences as they see family members who struggle with different addictions. I think it's extremely important that kids see themselves in what they read, and these are, unfortunately, experiences that some kids have. They need those reflections in literature. It's definitely a book I'll be sharing with my 6th graders this year as I use it for a Read Aloud in the fall.