WHEN YOU WISH UPON A LANTERN, by Gloria Chao, Viking Books for Young Readers, Feb. 14, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult)
Two teens set out to grant other people’s wishes in When You Wish Upon a Lantern, by Gloria Chao.
Liya and Kai had been best friends since they were little kids, but all that changed when a humiliating incident sparked The Biggest Misunderstanding of All Time — and they haven’t spoken since.
Then Liya discovers her family’s wishing lantern store is struggling, and she decides to resume a tradition she had with her beloved late grandmother: secretly fulfilling the wishes people write on the lanterns they send into the sky. It may boost sales and save the store, but she can’t do it alone . . . and Kai is the only one who cares enough to help.
While working on their covert missions, Liya and Kai rekindle their friendship — and maybe more. But when their feuding families and changing futures threaten to tear them apart again, can they find a way to make their own wishes come true? —Synopsis provided by Viking Books for Young Readers
Feuding family love stories have been around for a long time — Romeo and Juliet, anyone? So, to make a story stand out in this genre, authors have to find something unique. In the case of When You Wish Upon a Lantern, it’s secretly granting wishes.
It’s a premise that not only works, but feels believable and achievable.
Author Gloria Chao’s writing has an almost cinematic feel to it. You can practically see the lanterns floating across the screen. And the book’s beautiful cover truly helps set the tone.
At the center of the story are Liya and Kai. The pair are well-developed and play well against each other. And while supporting characters are a bit rough, Liya and Kai come across as genuinely kind people. You’d think that would leave the story flat, but instead, it’s refreshing.
There’s a kind of innocence to When You Wish Upon a Lantern that will appeal to readers who are looking for a “chaste” romance. It’s gentle and sweet, and Liya and Kai are charming.
When You Wish Upon a Lantern is an assuming read that’s light and well-paced. It’s a joy to read.
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