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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Wishing Game

Narrators: Paul Boehmer, Rachel L. Jacobs Random House Audio

ISBN: 9780593598832

Publisher: Random House/Ballantine

Publication Date: 05/30/2023

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)


Years ago, a reclusive mega-bestselling children’s author quit writing under mysterious circumstances. Suddenly he resurfaces with a brand-new book and a one-of-a-kind competition, offering a prize that will change the winner’s life in this absorbing and whimsical novel.

Make a wish. . . .

Lucy Hart knows better than anyone what it's like to grow up without parents who loved her. In a childhood marked by neglect and loneliness, Lucy found her solace in books, namely the Clock Island series by Jack Masterson. Now a twenty-six-year-old teacher’s aide, she is able to share her love of reading with bright, young students, especially seven-year-old Christopher Lamb, left orphaned after the tragic death of his parents. Lucy would give anything to adopt Christopher, but even the idea of becoming a family seems like an impossible dream without proper funds and stability.

But be careful what you wish for. . . .

Just when Lucy is about to give up, Jack Masterson announces he’s finally written a new book. Even better, he’s holding a contest on his private island where four hand-picked readers will compete to win the only copy. At age thirteen, Lucy fled her unhappy home and showed up on Jack Masterson’s doorstep, hoping to live with her favorite author. Thirteen years later, a sky-blue envelope arrives with Lucy's name on it, postmarked "Clock Island."

For Lucy, a chance to read the first Clock Island book in years is a prize worth fighting for, but the possibility of winning, selling the manuscript, and securing a better future for her and Christopher means everything.

But first, Lucy must contend with ruthless book collectors, wily opponents, and the distractingly handsome (and grumpy) Hugo Reese, illustrator of the Clock Island books and Jack’s only friend. Meanwhile, Jack “the Mastermind” Masterson is plotting the ultimate twist ending that could change all their lives forever.

. . . You might just get it.

Download PDF • 682KB

My Review

Meg Shaffer's charming, endearing debut, THE WISHING GAME —an uplifting book within a book— explores the magic of books and reading. A reclusive children's author, a unique competition, a teacher's aide, and an orphan boy—lives are about to CHANGE.

Years ago, a reclusive mega-bestselling children's author, Jack Masterson, stopped writing under mysterious circumstances. Now he has resurfaced with a new book in the Clock Island Series with a prize-worthy competition and a sought-after prize.

Lucy Hart, a kindergarten teacher's assistant, supplements her income with her knitted scarves on Esty. At age 26, she is desperate to adopt an orphaned (former student), Christopher Lamb (foster care). Unfortunately, she does not have the income or wherewithal to do so.

By chance, there is a competition. A chance to compete in a game created by reclusive Jack Masterson (the Mastermind), a children's book author. Jack lives on a private island off the coast of Maine with his pet raven and his friend, Hugo Reese, his book illustrator.

Jack believed in wishing —or he had once upon a time—but Hugo didn't. Hugo came to Clock Island to stay with Jack until he was back on his feet. Five years later, he is still there. Time is up.

After years of silence —the highly anticipated Clock Island Series. One lucky winner will receive a book copy. If she wins, she can adopt Christopher!

The four hand-picked contestants are all adults, but when they were children, they ran away from home and appeared on Jack’s doorstep, wanting to live in the fictional world he created for them.

The heroine Lucy was one of those runaways, fleeing neglect in hopes of a new life with her favorite writer. Now she’ll get to live that childhood dream for a week.

If she wins the new Clock Island book, it’ll change her life, and Christopher’s forever.

You will be rooting for Lucy! There are four competitors. There are obstacles. There are riddles and clues. Jack also makes them confront their fears. This contest could change lives. Jack, Hugo, Lucy, and Christopher have all suffered love and loss.

Whimsical, absorbing, mysterious, mystical, and thought-provoking! An enchanting blending of literary, fairy tales, romance, and magical realism.

Reminiscent of Willy Wonka, a fictional character in British author Roald Dahl's 1964 children's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its 1972 sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. In THE WISHING GAME, a "book factory."

I LOVED this delightful, uplifting book both heartfelt and heartwarming at the same time. The Clock Island illustration at the front of the book was adorable! An ode to the magic of books and storytelling!

A winner out of the gate, an author to watch. THE WISHING GAME is highly recommended for CS Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia fans and authors: Patti Callahan Henry, Sarah Addison Allen, and Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Thanks to #RandomHouse for a gifted ARC via #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: May 30, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars


“Meg Shaffer’s beautiful novel is part Willy Wonka, part magical realism, and wholly moving. It broke my heart and patched it over and reminded me that even as an adult, if you look hard enough, you can find the child still inside you.”

—Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling co-author of Mad Honey

“Our list of must-read fiction books wouldn’t be complete without a novel that reminds readers of the power books hold between their pages. Meg Shaffer’s The Wishing Game may not contain any magic—this is a whimsical tale, but it’s grounded in reality—yet there’s something magical about the book.”

—Reader’s Digest, in “Best Fiction Books of 2023”

“A heartwarming, page-turning story of found family, love triumphing over indifference, and the world-changing power of a good book.”

—Melissa Albert, New York Times bestselling author of The Hazel Wood

“A dreamy, inventive novel about how books can not only change lives but save them too. Full of the power of imagination, it’s one of my favorite books of the year.”

—Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of Other Birds

“A magical ode to storytelling, imagination, and the mystery of the creative life . . . Wildly imaginative, clever, and inspiring, The Wishing Game is for anyone who has found light in a story just when they need it.”

—Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Book of Flora Lea

“Meg Shaffer’s debut establishes her as one of the best. The Wishing Game sees the secret child hidden inside all of us, and it takes us on the thrilling, magical journey we all long for—where we might end up with everything we want but only if we risk it all.”

—Gwenda Bond, New York Times bestselling author of Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds

“A work by turns clever, dark, and hopeful, Shaffer’s debut is a love letter to reading and the power childhood stories have over us long after we’ve grown up.”

—V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

“Shaffer blends tragedy and triumph in a whimsical and gratifying debut about what makes a family. This is wish fulfillment in the best way.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A meditation on the power of hope when all else seems lost.”

—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Photo Credit: Chanel Nicole Co.

Meg Shaffer is a part-time creative writing instructor and a full-time MFA candidate in TV and Screenwriting at Stephens College, Columbia, Missouri. She lives in a state of uncertainty. Her debut novel The Wishing Game will be published in 2023 by Ballantine.







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