Review: I Dream of Johnny by Juliet Madison

Title I Dream of Johnny
Author Juliet Madison
Published September 1st, 2013 by Escape Publishing
Pages 42 Pages
Intended Target Audience Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Romance, Magic, Novella
Part of a Series? No
Source & Format Purchased from Amazon.com, eBook
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

Synopsis

Getting three wishes isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when an unfortunate spelling error in Mandy’s high-tech magic lamp changes her wish for a Greek God to a Geek God. His fashion IQ is in the negatives, he’s clingier than cling wrap, and he has a penchant for breaking into song at inappropriate moments. Before Mandy can request a replacement wish, she has to put up with him for twenty four hours, and the timing couldn’t be worse — it’s her friend’s wedding day, her ex will be there, and the God of Geeks insists on coming along for the ride!

“It really shouldn’t be this hard. I mean, all I had to do was press a simple button. But deleting the answering machine’s greeting message would officially commemorate the end of yet another failed relationship. Another break-up, another ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, and a painful reminder of being the last single woman over thirty-five in my family and social circle.”

Reeling from a recent break-up, pursuing a career that, while creatively satisfying, is hardly one that could be considered financially sound, and facing a life in a general state of upheaval, thirty-six-year-old Mandy is desperate for a little magic in her life. So, when she discovers a long-forgotten birthday gift at the back of her closet one afternoon, a ‘High-Tech Magic Lamp’ novelty toy, Mandy decides to have a bit of fun and make her three complimentary wishes on a whim. What she never expected is that they might actually come true. After having had her three original wishes rejected on the basis that they disobeyed the fundamental rules of wishing, she finally settles on three new wishes, one of which is for a Greek God who adores her and never wishes to leave her side. But when auto-correct changes a misspelled ‘Greek’ to ‘Geek’, Mandy is given more than she ever bargained for. Saddled with Jonathan Fortran Schnecklmyer, a man who is more ‘Zeke’ than ‘Zeus’, Mandy is dismayed at her bad luck and is quick to contact the World of Wishes customer service line, only to find that any requests for wish exchange take twenty-four hours to complete. Now stuck with a socially-inept man with atrocious dress sense and the tendency to break out in song at a moment’s notice, Mandy will be forced to spend every waking moment with Jonathan, and along the way will learn a valuable lesson about judging a book by its cover and that often times the things we need most are not what we wish for, but are rather those that we never see coming.

“Nope, there’d be no makeover for Jonathan what’s-his-name. He’d be staying just the way he was. His socks and sandaled feet and I would be walking into that church this afternoon whether I liked it or not. Maybe I could pray for a miracle. I sure as hell – I mean heaven – needed one.”

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I absolutely adore 1950’s sitcoms. From I Love Lucy to Leave It To Beaver and everything in between, there’s something about the sensibilities of the period that now seem quaint and comforting, and I adore the quirky shenanigans the characters invariably get themselves into. So, when I saw the I Dream Of Jeannie-inspired title for Australian author Juliet Madison’s latest novella, I Dream of Johnny, my attention was immediately hooked. After my recent positive experience with Shannon Stacey’s Slow Summer Kisses, I’ve found that I’m also more willing to take a chance on these pint-sized stories as I know that, when in capable hands, they can pack a real punch. Unfortunately, Madison’s novella was not at all what I expected, and lacked the heart, fun and flare traditionally inherent in this sort of story. What seemed more like an effort in cruelty and humiliation than a light-hearted romance, Juliet Madison’s I Dream of Johnny was a bitter disappointment with a cast of unlikeable characters and a creative concept that seemed wasted within the limited scope of this novella-length tale.

“When would it be my time? When would I be walking down that aisle? Get a grip, Mandy! Don’t be so desperate! I drew a deep breath and squared my shoulders. I’d just focus on my business for a while and forget about guys. You could still be single and happy, couldn’t you?”

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Or in this case – Yes, Mandy, believe it or not, it is possible to lead a happy, fulfilling life while still remaining single. Shocking, I know. There’s really no delicate way to put this: I absolutely detested the protagonist of this story. Mandy is the sort of woman for whom happiness is directly related to one’s relationship status. The concept of finding contentment and being happy on one’s own seems a near impossibility, and she questions whether this is even possible on more than one occasion. Nearly everything prompts her to bemoan her disappointing marital status, and as the above quotation demonstrates, she even manages to do so while attending a close friend’s wedding. What a pal! Superficial, vapid and generally insufferable, Mandy is also almost entirely consumed by other people’s perception of her. It speaks volumes about Mandy’s character that the first two wishes that come immediately to her mind are appearance based (1. To lose two dress sizes and 2. To gain bigger breasts). While I’m sure we’re all plagued with insecurities about our bodies and there are things about ourselves that we would change if we were easily able to, Mandy’s preoccupation with the superficial rises to an entirely different level. Unsurprisingly, this attitude extends to her feelings about Jonathan. She only begins to warm up to him after she notices that his rather unusual behaviour is perceived as endearing and likable by others. Until his rather unusual performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” at Mandy’s friend’s wedding, Mandy had gone out of her way to disassociate herself from Jonathan because she was embarrassed to be seen with him simply because of the way he looked, going so far at one point as to hide behind a tree for cover. Predictably, Mandy does eventually learn not to judge others based solely on appearance, but I found it sad (and implausible) that this was something she had not already learnt in her previous thirty-six years of life. Mandy’s revelation about appreciating Jonathan’s inner beauty was too little, too late and was not enough to redeem her character in my eyes.

“And…we could name our children after elements of the periodic table! Yes! Perfect!” He brought a curved finger to his chin. “Let’s see, our first could be Argon, that would suit a boy, and a girl could be Rubidium. Oh, oh! And what about Antimony and Molybdenum? Wow, I have the most brilliant ideas!”
You’ve got to be kidding me! Even if my future husband was the actual Greek God I’d tried to wish for and he wanted to name our kids after elements, there’s no way I’d agree. “Magnesium, sweetie, dinner’s ready!” and “Potassium, my darling, come and give Mummy a hug” didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.”

Like a character lifted straight out of the now-defunct reality television series, Beauty and the Greek, Jonathan Fortran Schnecklmyer is a be-speckled, suspender and socks-with-sandals-wearing Geek cliché complete with acne and body odor. While it’s clear that Jonathan’s personality quirks and characteristics have been exaggerated in a misguided, heavy-handed attempt at comedic effect, Madison does so to the point of absurdity and I can think of few, if any, self-professed ‘Geeks’, myself included, who would be anything other than offended by the author’s portrayal of what it is to be a Geek. The only times at which Jonathan redeems himself in Mandy’s eyes and demonstrates any sort of value is when he’s providing assistance in technological matters, either when installing Mandy’s DVD player and Wii or in helping fix a malfunction when the two attend a wedding together. With a tendency to break out in song (i.e. ‘The Wheels On The Bus’ while riding the city bus, etc) at a moment’s notice and an apparent problem with volume control, Jonathan is more akin to an unruly child than a fully-functional adult, and Mandy treats him at such. She spends much of her time chastising him for his behaviour, and there was nothing remotely charming, sweet, or vaguely romantic about their awkward interactions. I was uncomfortable and embarrassed by the behaviour of all involved and the first 60% of the novel was comprised solely of Mandy’s crippling mortification and frustration at being burdened with a man who she perceives as lacking any inherent value because he happens to dress poorly and fails to recognize certain social queues and niceties.

“I couldn’t believe that the God of Geeks I’d mistakenly wished for had become the life of the party! My frozen gaping mouth softened and turned upwards into a grin. “Oh, what the heck.” I pushed my chair back and stood, dragging Susan to the dance floor where we head banged with the rest of them. I hadn’t felt this good in a long time. Who would have thought someone like Jonathan could put a big, dorky smile on my face?”

A story about the evils of judging others based solely on appearance that also centres around the old adage of being careful what you wish for, Mandy soon learns that getting precisely what you’ve always wanted is not all it’s cracked up to be. Now blessed with a home that tidies itself and an unlimited amount of credit that allows her to purchase anything her heart desires at a moment’s notice, Mandy is at a loss as to how to fill her days with no practical impetus to continue on with her life as it stood prior to her three wishes. While I have absolutely no doubt that the concept for this story held the potential to inspire intelligent, thought-provoking discussion on both of these topics, I have trouble believing that even the most accomplished author could achieve such a feat in a mere 42 pages. In I Dream of Johnny, Juliet Madison tackles an ambitious, creative concept in the time it ordinarily takes me to chew a stick of gum. As it stands, I was left feeling unsatisfied and woefully disappointed in the final product, which seemed as though it barely skimmed the surface of the untapped potential hidden within the premise.

“Forget the Pearly Gates – if Hell was closer I’d take it.”

A mean-spirited story with a series of trite, one-dimensional characters whose development could be considered negligible at best, a concept that, while creative and compelling, ultimately failed to deliver on its promise, and a moral that seemed almost like an afterthought, I Dream of Johnny was a crushing disappointment. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel that this is one story that would have been better left unpublished or, preferably, better realized and developed as a full-length novel in order to give it the proper time, attention and care that it undoubtedly deserved. As it stands now, I couldn’t understand what purpose, if any, this novella served, and don’t think that I could recommend I Dream Of Johnny to prospective readers in good conscience. Instead, I would suggest that you save the $2.76 cost of the Kindle edition and put it toward a far superior genie-themed novel instead, such as Lindsay Ribar’s delightful debut, The Art of Wishing. If I had only one wish at this precise moment, it would be that I had never wasted my hard-earned money or time on this novella in the first place. My only hope now is that I might save someone else from a similar fate.

Overall Rating

Around The Web

Still not sure this is the right book for you? Why not listen to what some other bloggers had to say about it?

● Sam @ Sam Still Reading wrote “I loved this book – it was amusing with magical elements that fit perfectly into the story. I’m now a ‘romagic’ (romantic magic) convert!” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Cyn @ Book Munchies wrote “There were even a few tender moments in this cute little novella. It was a a light, sweet read (kind of like cotton candy) and easily enjoyable.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Deanna @ Paperback Dreamer wrote “If you’re looking for a light and quick read, pick this one up! It will take you only a couple of hours and it’s well worth it.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

4 responses to “Review: I Dream of Johnny by Juliet Madison”

  1. I always think it’s the worst feeling when you get to the end of a book and have to wonder what the point of it all was. I had a title like that earlier this year and, needless to say, completely regretted picking it up. It’s a shame that this novella was so disappointing! The one-dimensional characters are enough to put me off, but with a promising concept that failed to fully deliver, I don’t think I’ll be rushing to pick this up. Thanks for the helpful review, Jen!
    Sam @ Realm of Fiction recently posted…Review: Fractured by Sarah FineMy Profile

    • It really is! I had such high hopes for this novel but in the end I simply couldn’t understand what the purpose of it was. While it’s clear that Madison intended to put forth a certain message, it simply didn’t work for me, particularly given how reprehensible her characters were. Mandy’s sudden revelation felt insincere and far too convenient and without a greater attention to detail and time spent developing the characters and plot, it simply seemed lazy and poorly planned. I think the worst part is that I felt it could have been so much more, either in the hands of a more capable writer, or had more time been dedicated to developing it further.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Sam! 😀
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Review: I Dream of Johnny by Juliet Madison My Profile

  2. Thanks for the link. Sorry that this one didn’t work for you. I’d love to see the premise as a full length novel too.
    Sam Still Reading recently posted…These Wonderful Rumours! by May SmithMy Profile

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