I grabbed Genie Wishes from the shelf the other day and flew through it. Genie is one of those wonderful characters that you just want to keep reading about. This is also Elisabeth Dahl’s first book, so I am ardently hoping that she will come out with another about Genie soon.
Fifth grade can be an especially tough year for boys and girls alike, and Genie’s experience is no exception. When everyone returns to school after summer vacation, things have changed: there’s a new girl named Blair, who seems slightly beyond her years in her obsession with makeup and with boys. Blair has also captured the attention of Genie’s best friend, Sarah. When Genie wins the title of class blogger, she soon finds plenty to write about as she begins to observe the shifts that come with ‘tweenhood. As Genie finds her voice and works to show a slice of fifth grade life through her blog, she is also sussing out her own experiences with friendship and with growing up.
Genie’s clear and honest voice shines in this book; her observations and experiences felt very true to that mystifying time between between childhood and the teen years. Genie’s role as the class blogger challenges her to try to speak not only for herself, but for her peers. I really enjoyed how Genie’s experience with publishing online (with all of its pitfalls) mirrored what kids face today as they venture online to share their thoughts and feelings. Her blog entries, sprinkled throughout the book along with charming sketches, perfectly punctuate what is happening in school: the dreaded health class, changing friendships, the growing interest in flirtation, and the desire to seem older and wiser.
Genie Wishes never ventures into heavy territory, but it certainly hits the nail on the head for 10 to 12-year-olds. Genie is a character who remains true to herself and to her friends, despite occasionally feeling pushed to conform. Dahl’s portrayal of Genie’s evolving friendships is sweet and realistic, and she deals with puberty in a light and sympathetic way. Dahl is already being compared to Judy Blume (a perennial favourite).
Genie Wishes was a fantastic book full of humour and heart. I immediately felt an affinity for Genie, and laughed, cringed, and cheered for her and her classmates as they triumphantly conquer fifth grade. For read-alikes, you can check out our website.