There are some books that take a few days to read. But then there are some that feel like a quick episode of your favorite TV show: a book you can enjoy with a box of chocolates or some ice cream. I’ve spoken of many books of that kind on this blog, but I cannot forget about one of my favorites in that category: Just One Wish, by Janette Rallison. I’ve mentioned her work once before, and believe me, that lady does not disappoint.
Annika Truman’s little brother Jeremy is sick with a brain tumor. She does not want him to be scared, so she tells him stories of magic and adventure, and they watch Jeremy’s favorite TV show, Teen Robin Hood, together. Then Annika tells Jeremy that she has a genie and that Jeremy can borrow the genie to make a wish. What Annika does not expect is for Jeremy to wish for the actual Teen Robin Hood to come to play with him. Annika, along with her best friend Madison, goes on a madcap adventure to Hollywood to find the actor who plays Robin Hood and somehow convince him to see Jeremy before an important surgery.
I forget how many times I’ve read this book, but again, it’s only because it’s a fluffy, silly adventure. It’s a little over-the-top and sometimes feels like an episode of Hannah Montana, complete with silly disguises, encounters with hot teenage celebrities, and shenanigans involving zoo animals on a movie set.
But the sincerity is what keeps this story from falling into Disney Channel levels of silliness. Annika’s entire motivation for her crazy scheme is to help her little brother believe he can recover, even with the odds stacked against him. Jeremy is a sweet little child as well, and his selflessness is heartwarming.
While Annika’s adventure through Hollywood is pretty insane, it’s punctuated by these dark moments where Annika’s fears for Jeremy mess with her head. She keeps dreaming about the Grim Reaper, the underworld, and anything that could steal Jeremy from her. Surprisingly, though, these two sides of the story are relatively well balanced. They help Annika feel less like a quirky teenage caricature, and more like someone with something to lose if she doesn’t pull through.
Plus, there’s the wish-fulfillment of going to Hollywood and getting a handsome teenage actor to take a road trip with you to see your sick brother because he’s such a nice guy. Don’t worry: it’s not nearly as saccharine as it sounds. The actor, named Steve Raleigh, and Annika, get into plenty of shenanigans together, and their dynamic is cute.
Again, the story might sound like something the Disney Channel might cook up, but gosh darn it, the story is too much fun and the sincerity is truly effective. You laugh at Annika’s antics trying to navigate a Hollywood set, but you also really root for her to get the help Jeremy wished for. In short, if my reviews have not convinced you to look at Janette Rallison’s work, I’m not sure I’ve done enough writing practice.