Zora and Me
DREAMER WISHER LIAR --- the latest middle grade novel by Charise Mericle Harper, author of the Just Grace series --- features Ashley, who is not looking forward to the summer; she will be separated from her best friend Lucy, who is going to summer camp several weeks before her. Even worse, Lucy is moving far away in the fall. Lucy is not only Ashley's closest friend, but she helps Ashley navigate the world; Ashley has Prosopagnosia, a condition that makes her "face blind," and Lucy has always been there to give her the name of the person in front of her. To make matters even worse, Ashley's mother has arranged for a seven-year-old girl named Claire to stay with them for a few weeks and expects Ashley to entertain her. Ashley is prepared to be miserable but Claire turns out to be surprisingly good company, and when Ashley makes an amazing discovery, things really get interesting!
[DREAMER WISHER LIAR] is a great selection for spring reading and imagining the transformations, challenges and changes summer always brings.
In addition to dealing with Lucy’s impending move and the arrival of Claire in her life, Ashley also finds a jar labeled “wishes” in her basement. Reading the small paper wishes somehow magically transports her back in time to the moment they were made. Ashley, invisible to those she sees, finds herself witness to the turbulent friendship of (another) Ashley and Shue. The girls meet one summer and instantly bond, but by the time school starts, Ashley, a year older than Shue, has left her new friend behind. Ashley the narrator is compelled to visit them again and again, even when the scenes she observes begin to bring her physical pain. Who are the girls and what became of them? And, is it possible they are connected to the elderly couple that has fallen out of love that Ashley and Claire have come to know?
Despite her misgivings, anger and frustration, Ashley’s summer begins with not just a metaphysical adventure that moves her to think about friendship, love, change and identity, but also with new relationships that help her grow and learn. Claire, who is suffering from her own recent heartbreaks, brings joy, fun and unconditional love to Ashley’s life, while with schoolmate Sam, Ashley finds acceptance and excitement. Peter, who works in the print and mail shop, engages Ashley with talk of books and encourages her creativity.
DREAMER WISHER LIAR is a heartwarming and original story. The writing is straightforward and even simple, sounding authentically young but still smart. It draws on elements of magical realism and thus avoids predictability. Though Ashley, Claire and the other characters are confronted with real and difficult situations, the book maintains a sweetness throughout. It is a great selection for spring reading and imagining the transformations, challenges and changes summer always brings.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on April 15, 2014