Val Williams believes she will never be as pretty or popular as her older sister Ailene. When Ailene dumps her on an unfamiliar road after an argument, Val decides to ask directions of the only person she sees—an old woman engaged in a garage sale. Val purchases a music box that the old woman claims has magical qualities and will grant Val one wish. In a fit of pique, Val wishes that that her sister would stop being so perfect. When Ailene starts acting oddly, breaks up with her boyfriend, stops talking to her friends, starts dating a “bad” boy, and cuts classes, Val is troubled. She begins to fear she caused all this to happen by making her wish and suffers a guilty conscience. How she goes about setting matters right makes for some unusual complications and surprises.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Witch Wish by Jacqueline Seewald, Val Williams is kicked out of the car by her sister, Ailene, on the way home from school. Although Val doesn’t really mind walking since it’s not that far, she isn’t really sure where she is as Ailene had to take a detour and ended up on a lonely country road. So Val goes to the first house she sees where an old woman is having a garage sale. The old woman convinces Val to buy a music box that she says will grant Val one wish. When Val gets home, she argues with Ailene and accidentally wishes for Ailene to not be so perfect. So when Ailene starts acting strange, Val is terrified that her wish was the cause.
A story of sibling rivalry in a dysfunctional family, this is a coming of age story that is as compelling as it is entertaining.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Witch Wish by Jacqueline Seewald is the story of an average fifteen-year-old girl with a beautiful older sister and a mother who clearly favors the older sibling. When Val argues with her older sister, Ailene, on the way home from school, Ailene pushes her out of the car and makes her walk home. Since Val is not exactly sure where she is, she stops to ask directions from an old woman having a yard sale from whom she buy a magical music box that will grant her one wish. The old woman cautions her that her wish cannot be taken back once she makes it, so she needs to choose her wish carefully. But when Val gets home, she is still angry at her sister and rashly wishes that Ailene wasn’t so perfect. Val feels a funny sensation, and Ailene begins to act weird. She defies her mother, breaks up with her boyfriend, and even skips school. Val is afraid that her wish has cause her sister to act this way, but she doesn’t know how to make it right.
A coming-of-age story that is both poignant and compelling, Witch Wish is charming, intriguing, and very entertaining. A great read.
Central New Jersey, 1985:
My sister Ailene pulled the car to the side of the road, reached over, and opened the door on the passenger side. “Get out right now!” she hissed through gritted teeth.
“Yes way. You’re an obnoxious brat. I don’t have to put up with you, and I won’t for another minute.”
Maybe I had gone a tad overboard in the rude department today, but she’d deserved it. I had to stand and wait while she giggled and gossiped with her airhead friends by the lockers for what seemed like forever. I stood there being ignored and feeling like a leper. Then finally when she finally turned to me, all she said was: “Come on. Hurry up.” Like she’d done me this great honor giving me a ride home.
Now she was all indignation. Well, I wasn’t going to stand for it. “I’m not getting out of the car,” I said.
Unfortunately, Ailene was taller and weighed more than I did. She shoved me out, hurled my backpack after me, and drove off, burning rubber. She didn’t even look back. So there I stood at the side of a rural road with no idea exactly where I was.
Ailene had veered off the main highway when traffic stopped. There’d been an accident on the highway. No way of getting through any time soon. That pissed her off, too. She’s not the most adaptable individual.
It was a warm afternoon. I didn’t mind walking, but the road was totally unfamiliar. I’d have to travel back in the direction of the highway. From there, I could find my way. Maybe my sister had done me a favor. Anything was better than being around her. She found me annoying, but I felt the same way about her.
As I walked, I fantasized.
Cheerleader shot dead at football game—mystery as to who pulled trigger. As a student of journalism, I considered this possible headline. Were I to murder my sister, I wouldn’t want to be caught.
Don’t judge me in haste. If you had a sister like Ailene, you’d probably hate her too. I’d like to say Ailene was nasty, selfish, and spoiled, but it wouldn’t be true. I have my share of faults. Lying isn’t one of them. The truth? Ailene was polite, intelligent, beautiful, and even charming—when it suited her.
So why did I hate her? Maybe because she was everything I wished I could be but didn’t think I ever would be. Someone like Ailene, who was so much better than most people, you envied, idolized, or hated her. It wasn’t easy living in the same home with perfection day after day.
A house came into my line of vision. It was an old Colonial with white clapboard shingles and black shutters that had paint peeling. There was an old woman sitting in a chair with all kinds of items set out on folding tables in cardboard boxes.
I guess she was having a garage sale. I figured I’d stop and ask for directions back to the highway. She was kind of creepy looking, dressed all in black. But she was the only person around.
So I walked over to her. She stood up, smiling through crooked yellowed teeth.
“I’m kind of lost,” I said.
She nodded. “I can see that.”
She had dark, penetrating eyes. She studied me in an eerie way that made my blood freeze.
“Can you direct me back to Route Five-Sixteen?”
“Certainly. But first why don’t you look at these things I have for sale. They are unique.”
“Sure,” I said, figuring to humor the old gal.
I began looking around. She had a lot of weird stuff, old crap that I had no interest in. But I figured if I offered to buy something I maybe could get the directions quicker. So I glanced at the stuff on one of the tables. A polished wooden box caught my eye.
“I see you like my music box. Actually, I have a bit of a collection.” She picked up the box and wound it up. “It plays Fur Elise by Beethoven.”
I listened and liked what I heard. “How much does it cost?”
“Whatever you can afford.”
I was surprised. I checked the pocket of my jeans. I had some allowance money with me but there wasn’t much. “I’ve only got four dollars.”
“Just the right amount,” she assured me. “There is one thing about the box itself.” She hesitated. “You see…how should I put this?…the box has a certain unusual quality. If I bestow ownership upon you, the music box will grant you a wish.”
I blinked and stared at her open-mouthed. Clearly, the old lady was a few slices short of a loaf.
“Sure,” I said, trying to appear agreeable and humor her. “Great.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?” She gave me a knowing smile. Then she laughed, except I swear it sounded more like a cackle. The wind lifted her long, steel-gray hair, giving her an otherworldly look. “It’s all right. I don’t mind. But I think I should warn you. Once you open the box and make a wish out loud, you won’t be able to take it back. You get only one wish, you understand. So think carefully about it. Make certain you wish for something you truly want.”
The way she looked at me was just plain scary. I handed her my crumpled dollar bills and took possession of the box. She gave me the directions back to the highway, and I walked home from there. I placed the music box into my backpack and forgot about it.
It was a long dusty walk home, and I silently cursed my sister. I dumped my backpack in the front hall, eager to get a cold drink.
My sister walked into the foyer and looked down her nose at me. “Pick that up and put it where it belongs. You know Mom doesn’t like you leaving your stuff around.”
“I’m hot and tired,” I said. I narrowed my eyes accusingly.
“Serves you right.” She smiled for spite.
I picked up my backpack upside down. I guess it wasn’t fully closed because the music box fell out, hitting the marble floor along with two of my textbooks. I picked up the box and looked it over, hoping it wasn’t broken. I wound the mechanism but it didn’t play the tune.
I opened it up. There was nothing inside but a red velvet lining.
“Get your junk out of here before Mom gets home. You are such a slob!”
I felt my cheeks start to burn. “You’re so judgmental. I wish you weren’t so perfect and made mistakes like the rest of us.”
At that moment, I felt a strange vibration like a seismic tremor. My hands shook. I looked down and realized the sensation was coming from the box. All of a sudden it slammed shut. So weird! Was the old woman right? Was the box magical? If that was true, I’d met up with a real-live witch. I shook my head to clear it of such far-out notions. Impossible! Absurd! No such thing existed.
Without the exchange of another word with my sister, I carried my things upstairs to my bedroom, and then I tossed the music box into my closet, consigning it to the back area at the bottom. I never wanted to look at it again.
© 2018 by Jacqueline Seewald