Wish Girl

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Wish Girl Book Poster Image
Magical, heartrending story of loss, change, and hope.

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Kids say

age 9+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In addition to discussion about what, exactly, constitutes art, there's an abundance of great vocabulary words such as "lachrymose" and "mellifluent."


Positive Messages

Listening is surprisingly powerful, essential to understanding yourself and those around you. Change can be very hard, but you're likely to appreciate how you've grown and transformed once you're on the other side. Friendships that challenge you can lead to tremendous growth.


Positive Role Models & Representations

Peter and Annie don't become friends easily, and they work hard to navigate ups and downs and support each other. Mrs. Empson is an empathetic, smart adult who gives Peter and Annie just the guidance they need. Peter's parents are deeply concerned and want to help, but they aren't managing stress well and their efforts often cause more harm than good. 



Two bullies are menacing and dangerous: They badly injure two children, threaten people with guns, hunt animals, and try to break into a home. It's made clear that they're physically and mentally abused by their father. A boy describes being badly beaten in the past.



Two boys describe a boy's sister as "hot" and make lewd comments about her that aren't described in detail. 



Adults are described as cussing at each other when they fight.



Brief mentions of Tylenol, Lincoln Logs, Facebook, Velcro, Twizzlers, eBay, Play-Doh, and the movie franchises The Fast and the Furious and Die Hard.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wish Girl is a magical, touching story with a strong current of brutality. Family dynamics are particularly painful, with children who feel misunderstood and hurt by their parents. The "wish girl" is a Make-a-Wish girl; she's dying of cancer, and she fears the treatment that could save her life will cause brain damage. The bullies here go beyond everyday pushing and taunting, instead brandishing guns and causing serious injuries. The children lie to their families, causing considerable stress and anxiety, but their reasons for doing so are clear and understandable. 

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What's the story?

Peter Stone, 12, feels like the weirdo in his family: He's the quiet one in a bunch of loud, outgoing people. The family has moved from San Antonio to the hill country of Texas, hoping to put Peter's troubles behind them. But they're fractured and fighting, and Peter seeks solace in a quiet valley. There he meets Annie Blythe, who says she's a "wish girl." Peter soon realizes she means she's a Make-a-Wish girl: She has cancer, and she faces a treatment she fears is worse than dying. In their magical valley, Peter and Annie imagine creating a new life for themselves, without bullies and well-intentioned relatives. But the valley can't shield them from hard reality, and Peter and Annie are challenged to find a way to hold on to their spark.

Is it any good?

WISH GIRL mines difficult emotional terrain -- bullies, dysfunctional families, mortality, identity -- with lyrical grace. Nikki Loftin's thoughtfully written story of two souls undergoing painful but powerful transformation is full of magical realism, yet grounded with harsh truths with which many children are all too familiar. Peter's bullies are shockingly scary, but even they are treated with some compassion: Their home lives, it's made clear, is making them into monsters.

Annie and Peter are likable, relatable kids struggling with unfair burdens they can't simply shrug off. The fantastical moments they share in the valley will have readers wishing they too could run off and join them, playing in the dirt and grass and creating a world for themselves.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Peter deals with his bullies. What might you do if you were in his shoes?

  • Do you have a safe place to go for comfort when you're upset?

  • Real art changes you, Annie says. What do you consider "real art"?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love books about friendship and coming-of-age stories

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