Review: The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar

Title The Fourth Wish
Author Lindsay Ribar
Published July 31st, 2014 by Kathy Dawson Books
Pages 368 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Genie, Magic
Part of a Series? Yes (Book 2 in The Art of Wishing series)
Source & Format Received an advance reader copy from the publisher for review (Thanks Penguin Teen!), Paperback
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

Here’s what Margo McKenna knows about genies: She’s seen Aladdin more times than she can count; she’s found a magic genie ring and made her three allotted wishes; she’s even fallen head over heels in love with Oliver, the cute genie whose life she saved by fighting off another genie. But none of this prepared her for the shock of becoming a genie herself.

Everything Margo’s taken for granted – graduating high school, going to college, hating math, performing in the school musical, even being a girl – is in question. Just at a time when she’s trying to figure out who she wants to be, Margo is forced to become whomever her master wants. But Margo is also coming into a power she never imagined she’d have. How will she reconcile the two? And where will she and Oliver stand when she’s done?

Please Note: This review will contain spoilers for the first novel in this series, The Art of Wishing.

“There was only pain, at first – the pain of my magic breaking me into a collection of atoms, getting ready to make me into something new. It was painful, but I knew it was necessary.
I just wished I could make it happen faster.”

One choice can change everything. No-one knows this more than eighteen year old Margo McKenna. After choosing to cast a fourth wish in order to save Oliver from his dangerous, megalomaniacal ex-boyfriend, Xavier, and circumvent the multitude of differences that threatened to separate she and Oliver forever, Margo is transformed into a genie and life, as she knows it, will never be the same again. New body. New powers. New rules. Ready or not, before she can say ch-ch-changes, Margo has been transformed and her spirit vessel, her favourite red guitar pick, is discovered by her first master. Worst still, the lucky new owner of said pick is none other than notorious womanizer and fellow classmate, Ryan Weiss. As her time in the theatre has taught her, however, the show must go on. Now, Margo must attempt to satisfy the wishes of Ryan – all of which seem disconcertingly focused on her best friend, Naomi – while simultaneously attempting to understand and control new, monumental powers the likes of which she has never known. Straddling two opposing worlds, Margo will ultimately be forced to confront her most difficult decision yet: Where it is she truly belongs.

“I’d had nightmares like this, over and over throughout most of junior high, before I’d conquered my stage fright: It’s the opening night of the musical, and I’m supposed to play the lead…only there hadn’t been any rehearsals, and I don’t know my lines.
And just like in the dreams, there was only one thing I could do.
Wing it.”

Move over, Aladdin, because Lindsay Ribar is single handedly redefining the genie sub-genre for a new generation! Regular visitors of Pop! Goes The Reader will know that I rarely, if ever, read paranormal or fantasy stories. Were all the novels in these aforementioned genres half as smart and entertaining as Ribar’s magical duology, however, I can assure you that this would not be the case. I’ve made it no secret that The Art of Wishing holds a very special place in my heart – I even went so far as to declare it the best young adult debut novel I read in 2013. On a personal, sentimental level, The Art Of Wishing was one of the first books I reviewed on Pop! Goes The Reader but, more than that, it was (and still is) a thoroughly enjoyable, memorable narrative that remained with me long after I turned the final page. Given the vast array of novels I read on a regular basis, it’s not uncommon for stories to begin to blend together or fade from my memory entirely. Not so with this series, however. Thankfully, the author does not disappoint in this immensely moving follow-up novel that will challenge reader’s notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in a thoroughly modern, diverse tale that confronts issues of power, consent, identity and sexuality and the ethical complexities inherent in each. Magical, enchanting, and far superior to its peers, The Art Of Wishing and The Fourth Wish are two novels that should not be missed or ignored under any circumstances.

“I wondered if NYU offered a major in being a genie. I could take classes in how not to flicker in front of people. I could minor in shapeshifting.”

While The Fourth Wish begins precisely where The Art Of Wishing left off, from there the two novels diverge quite sharply in a number of respects. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Margo’s development as a character. In The Art of Wishing, Margo begins as a character firmly in control, a strong, confident friend, dedicated student and passionate performer and musician with clear ambitions and her future all but laid out before her. Because Ribar’s debut is primarily action and plot-based, Margo’s personal journey is relatively simple and straightforward, with the focus being placed on her growing acceptance of the role of magic in the everyday world and her struggle to understand and act upon her burgeoning feelings for Oliver. In The Fourth Wish, however, the scope of Ribar’s writing has grown much more ambitious and intricate, seeing the author use Margo’s transformation and inherited abilities as a genie to explore a number of complex societal and moral issues including power, consent, identity and sexuality. While Margo was aware that casting a fourth wish would lead to her metamorphosis into a paranormal being, the realities of being a genie in a practical sense are far from what she once imagined. An entity whose sole purpose is to grant the wishes and fulfill the desires of another, Margo initially struggles with the scope and limits of her power and its affect on her own will, freedom of choice, and autonomy, both physical and emotional. How far should one go to ensure the happiness and satisfaction of one’s master? At what cost are these wishes achieved? What does one do when said wishes run contrary to one’s own moral compass? Likewise, Margo and Oliver’s capacity to shapeshift, an ability inherent in their role as genies, raises a number of interesting questions both in regard to their individual identities as well as their romantic relationship as a couple. Are the personas they adopt for each new master an aspect, however minute, of their own identity, or a manifestation of their master’s deepest desires? How does one love a being whose physical identity is forever in flux? Once again Ribar uses a paranormal premise to inspire a dialogue about relevant societal issues, in this case the fluidity of sexuality and the nature of true love. The author deftly weaves together these and other elaborate societal and ethical issues, all while furthering Margo’s own personal development, making this novel the perfect choice for classrooms and book clubs interested in inspiring intelligent, spirited discussion.

“You read romance novels?”
“I went through a phase in junior high school. Totally Naomi’s fault. Point is, I know how this works. Heaving bosom, throbbing manhood, all that.”
“Throbbing? Really? You want me to throb?”
“You throb,” I said, heading for the stairs. “I’ll heave.”
“That’s possibly the least sexy phrase I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Predictably, as a couple Margo and Oliver are just as wonderful, if not more so, in The Fourth Wish. What I love most about this couple, apart from their scorching chemistry and playful banter, is how Ribar uses their romantic relationship to subvert expectations and play with traditional archetypes at every available opportunity. Their feelings for one another are almost immediately and extremely strong. So much so, in fact, that Margo is willing to sacrifice her mortality in order to save Oliver from Xavier and bridge the many differences that threaten to separate them. Under normal circumstances this would be an egregious example of the much-dreaded ‘instalove’ that would have drastically reduced my enjoyment of the novel. In the case of Margo and Oliver, however, this didn’t bother me, not the least of which is because these two characters are too charismatic and loveable to begrudge anything. Putting that aside, I appreciate that the author does not use their feelings as a plot device to resolve conflict or tie up loose ends. If anything, Margo and Oliver’s feelings for one another complicate matters further, particularly in The Fourth Wish, where Oliver is acting both as Margo’s boyfriend and mentor, helping to instruct her in her power and responsibility as a genie. This changes the dynamic between the two drastically and creates some new issues around which the couple have to navigate. While their path to a happy ending is anything but smooth or straight forward, I appreciated the work that Margo and Oliver put into their relationship in order to make it work. There was one scene in particular that I found refreshing, in which Margo and Oliver have a frank, open discussion about their prior sexual experience (or lack thereof) and their expectations moving forward in their own relationship. This sets an excellent example for young readers about being open and honest with their partners when preparing to engage in a physical relationship and was a welcome (and much-needed!) change of pace. Bravo, Ms. Ribar.

“Ciarán-Gwen-Alicia-Oliver,” I whispered, pretending I could see all of him, too.
“What do you wish of me?” he asked.
I looked at him. He looked at me. We were a live wire. An explosion waiting to happen.
I said, “Everything.”

I don’t want to live in a world where everyone hasn’t read The Art Of Wishing and The Fourth Wish, Ribar’s smart, spirited, effervescent duology that will steal your heart and inspire you to believe in magic again. My only disappointment is that this series cannot continue on forever. While I was no doubt eager to read the follow-up to one of the most memorable and enjoyable novels I read last year, it was bittersweet having to say goodbye to Margo, Oliver, and a diverse, creative world that has come to mean so much to me. I have absolutely no doubt that this book, and by extension this series, will remain in my memory, and my heart, for many years to come. While it might not have Arabian nights, magic carpet rides or an adorable simian sidekick, The Fourth Wish is something infinitely better, with a cast of charming, captivating characters, creative world building that puts a unique twist on traditional genie lore and clever social commentary that will challenge your accepted notions of power, consent, identity and sexuality. You ain’t never read a book like this.

Please Note: All quotations included in this review have been taken from an advance reader copy and therefore might be subject to change.

Overall Rating

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

● Ashleigh @ The YA Kitten wrote “If you want a little something magical that still deals with very real issues like consent without losing any humor, this duology is something to look into.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Christina @ A Reader Of Fictions wrote “There’s a special kind of bantery magic in this series and I wish that the people who would love this series will find it. I love both of them and they’re definitely the sort of books I’ll be rereading throughout the years.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Allie @ Little Birdie Books wrote “There is a real sense of closure after flipping the last page. This is truly the perfect end to Margo and Oliver’s story.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

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