Book Review: Leaving Wishville by Mel Torrefranca

Sunday, August 9, 2020

"How come everyone who left never came back?"

Note: I was sent a free Kindle ebook copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Warning: Review contains minor spoilers!
TW: Cancer, death


DETAILS

Title: Leaving Wishville
Author: Mel Torrefranca
Genre: Middle Grade, Magical Realism
Published: February 8th, 2020, by Lost Island Press
Source: Amazon Kindle Store, gifted by the author

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads)

Ten years ago, Scott Marino disappeared from town without a trace. His son Benji, now fourteen, is the only person daring enough to approach the border. Although his best friends are eager to help him move on, he can't shake the feeling that his father is still out there. Everyone in town says it's impossible. They believe Scott's disappearance proves the world outside of Wishville is unsurvivable, but he questions their reasoning.

When his friend's sickly little sister claims to know what others don't, Benji's life is thrown into chaos. With time against him, and his curiosity stronger than ever, he knows what he must do. Leaving Wishville might be his only chance for freedom--but it may also cost him his life.

A colorful and chilling debut, Leaving Wishville dives into a sea of forbidden curiosity, unavoidable grief, and the dangers of discovering the truth.

REVIEW

Right from the very first page, we get this: "It would make a tragic story. Benji Marano, fourteen, kills himself on a venture to paradise." This was such a strong opening because it immediately set the tone of the story. We know from the synopsis that we would be dealing with grief, and yet there was that contrast of paradise. But what is paradise? I thought Torrefranca did pretty well in keeping that bubble of mystery around the town of Wishville and what's beyond Wishville. Throughout my reading experience, I couldn't help but make theories--make connections within the characters, figure out who's done what.

I also enjoyed Torrefranca's writing style. It was so fluid, which added to that magical realism vibe of the book. She used colors a lot, which I loved. I thought it added depth and imagery to the emotions our characters were feeling throughout the story: grief, confusion, excitement. The use of color was reminiscent of Reese Witherspoon's 1998 film called Pleasantville, where the presence of color in a black-and-white world signified an emotion, a sense of who they are.

The empty cafe was colorless, but chatting with Lauren had somehow brought a hint of color into the room. The air filled with a warm orange hue, lighting everything with a dewy glow.

In Leaving Wishville, we get to meet Benji's closest friends: Chloe, Sam, and James, as well as a group of side characters (the adults) that would eventually play their own parts in the story. What I loved about these characters was that they had their own little things. For example, James was a bookworm (that one scene of him ripping apart his favorite book was so powerful--probably my most favorite scene ever); Sam complained a lot; and Chloe had a short attention span, which was continuously demonstrated in the book. I thought that consistent display made the characters feel more real and more relatable. It also showed Torrefranca's dedication and close attention to details.

On the other hand, there were some things that I particularly did not like. Oliver's character was one that I felt 50/50 about. Oliver wasn't new to me; I have already read about this type of character before, where someone wasn't what people thought he was. As Torrefranca wrote, "Benji couldn't understand how everyone saw Oliver as crazy. He wasn't normal, but he was kind." Yet at the same time, I thought Oliver was the most interesting character in the book. He had this past that I wish Torrefranca could've worked with a little more. For some reason, I wanted him to play a bigger role in the "grand scheme of things."

Another character that I wished was more involved was Scott Marino. He was Wishville's legend--the man who crossed the border and never came back. I was expecting him to be more involved in the story, especially towards the ending.

Overall, I had a fun time reading Leaving Wishville. I was impressed by Torrefranca's writing style, which honestly made me feel like I wasn't reading a book written by a young author. The characters were likable, though there were a couple that I felt should've been more involved. How people handle grief differently was also demonstrated really well in this book (again, James' scene of him tearing apart his favorite book was exemplary!), and I love that it didn't shy away from the topic of mental health. The adults showed that they cared for their kids' well-being, which I thought was pretty important, especially in a middle-grade book. Although there were a couple of questionable things the adults did ;)

The concept reminded me so much of M. Night Shyamalan's 2004 thriller film, The Village, and The Truman Show (1998) by Peter Weir. Both movies deal with an isolated town, where people aren't allowed to cross the border. So, if you happen to be a big fan of these movies or this concept in general, then I would recommend that you pick up Leaving Wishville.

OVERALL RATING

★★★ / 5

CHECK OUT THIS BOOK HERE ⤵


 // ANA //

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