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Fairy Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets hasn’t granted her first wish yet, but she knows when she does, she’ll have the situation in complete control. After being selected to be a Granter, she was at the top of her class in school and did hours of additional research on her own. Her independent, orderly, nothing-out-of-place-in-her-cottage personality is summed up best by this sentence in the very first chapter of GRANTED, the latest from author John David Anderson: “Some fairies called her fussy. She preferred the word meticulous.”

Then finally, Ophelia gets her chance to leave the Haven where all the fairies live and grant her first-ever wish.

A little background first: the Haven is in trouble. Worldwide magic levels keep decreasing. Humans, those finicky creatures the fairies are both fascinated by and sometimes scorn, just don’t believe in magic as much as they used to. Without as much magic to go around, fewer wishes are granted. The decision about which of the millions of wishes humans make each day get granted is made by the Great Tree. Every day, leaves inscribed with wishes fall from it and then Barnabus Oleander Squint, Chief of the Granters Guild, assigns them out to the Granters to make come true, using their wits and a little bit of fairy dust.

"Anderson does a great job of keeping the reader engaged and clued in to everything Ophelia is thinking. Her character development is strong and her growth apparent..."

On the day Ophelia gets her first chance, only a dozen wishes have fallen from the Great Tree. That doesn’t dissuade Ophelia: In the years that Squint has been in charge, the Granters have had a perfect track record, with every wish assigned being granted. There is no way Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is going to ruin that record with her assignment to find the nickel Kasarah Quinn wished on for a new bike because hers was stolen (“And make it purple,” she included).

But Ophelia quickly learns that despite her best preparations, pristine uniform and perfectly packed bag, nothing is going to go as she expected to on her mission and nothing she ever studied in her books will prepare her for her encounters with humankind. A series of small disasters chasing Kasarah’s elusive nickel will present her with more challenges than she could imagine, forcing her to use her wits and even accepting help from other creatures. She loses a lot of her supplies (and even the ability to fly), but she will never lose her will to find that coin, sprinkle on the fairy dust (which stays secure in a vial around her neck) and utter the words she has always dreamed of saying “Your wish is granted.”

While all of Anderson’s characters are strongly written, the most memorable one in GRANTED is Sam, a stray dog Ophelia stumbles across when she is at her lowest. Sam has had a tough life with a previous master who abused him. While Ophelia is reluctant to have him tag along on her mission, he quickly wins her over and helps her see humans as people, not merely devices to help sustain magic and keep the Haven alive. Then there’s Anna and Gabe, two children she keeps encountering who work their way into her heart and one who has a wish of his own. It is toward the end that Ophelia is forced to make a decision that will make all the other rules she broke look minor in comparison and possibly affect the very existence of the Haven.

Anderson uses strong and challenging vocabulary throughout GRANTED. He does not “write down” to the 8-12 age group the book is directed at. His use of short sentences and single-sentence paragraphs make those words approachable. The chapters are also relatively short, which adds to the fast pacing of the novel once Ophelia is on her mission.

The lead up to Ophelia’s mission and all the explanations of the Haven and the roles of every fairy cause the plot to be a little slow in the beginning. Once Ophelia starts her mission, it’s very easy to get caught up in the plot. Anderson does a great job of keeping the reader engaged and clued in to everything Ophelia is thinking. Her character development is strong and her growth apparent: She will always be independent and strong-willed but she will also accept help when she needs it, friendship when it’s offered (no matter how unconventional) and see humans as creatures that are more than magic vessels --- and she might even inspire that type of transformation in others.

Anderson also seems to advocate for a simpler time when belief in magic was a given. While describing how the fairies have created their own form of technology with parts salvaged from humans, he remarks “... but you start relying too much on gadgets and gizmos and you lose sight of the magic. Maybe that was part of the problem.” This statement, combined with Ophelia’s emotional transformation, make a good case for taking a step back and wishing on birthday candles and coins dropped into the water. Be more present, Anderson seems to say, and appreciate all the types of magic that the world has to offer.

Reviewed by Liz Sauchelli on February 26, 2018

by John David Anderson