Wishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes

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Wishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A very good look at a young lad who finds a god to worship, leading to unexpected connotations in all areas of his life.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: July 2010
Publisher: OUP Oxford
ISBN: 978-0192756114

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We first meet Kevin covered in sick. He doesn't travel well, and his day out with his gran in the car isn't going as well as he might wish for. He doesn't really seriously wish for anything, but a diverting list of things he'd like – a better complexion, a better chance with the school hottie, a Wii, etc – gets dropped into a stream. And lo and behold, the god of that river, someone called Abandinus, comes to life, thinking he's got a worshipper at last, and might just be prepared to grant some wishes.

What you might think you're getting with this book is an extended version of the 'be careful what you wish for' moral, but there is an awful lot more. For a start there's Kevin and his best friend Tim, both being reluctant to proactively wish for things. Of course, for them, there's the whole god-at-the-end-of-the-garden business to get their heads around, and the fact he demands a shrine and a newly composed hymn before things are going to happen.

What does happen will feature a gamut of factors, a wide range of elements and moods, that will provide a welcome depth to the story. For me, as an adult, there are hugely meaningful lines here and there about religion, and the choices of one and the choices once within it. This god and others need us to need him. These comments are dispersed in the drama, and are there – I can't say how evident they will be to all readers, as this is suitable for the 8-13 age range – but there they are.

Yet they take nothing away from the real world Kevin is in, one of the school discos, parents having split up, a nice cameo from an American girl on a cultural exchange programme and bringing a different attitude to proceedings… Ali Sparkes, if she is competent at anything (and she is, oh she is), is best in bringing young male heroes to life with vivid reality, and peppering their worlds with the fantastical. I think this is a logical progression of her output – Abandinus is only a minor god, and so are most of the others that occur, that suffer the ignominy of only a couple of paragraphs on Wikipedia. Yet I get the feeling some authors for this age range would not wish to go as far as putting a reason for worship in such a realistic fantasy fiction.

The fact this story bears many riches and is much deeper and more complex than any summary I would choose to impart is its outstanding merit. The narrative never backs into a cul-de-sac of being about this or that part of Kevin's life or even settling once and for all on the mundane or the fantastical. It does, however, have to end somehow, and I think the climax is a little too different from what precedes it, bringing other aspects of life in for a conclusion that certainly doesn't let the side down, but didn't quite appear to me as completely satisfying as the rest.

I must thank the publishers at OUP for sending me a review copy.

For more religion in fiction for a slightly older age group, we have to rate Killing God by Kevin Brooks as the best. Ali's best remains Frozen In Time by Ali Sparkes but we did enjoy Thunderstruck.

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Buy Wishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Wishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes at Amazon.com.


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