Friday, May 8, 2015

Genuine Sweet by Faith Harkey, 2015

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Twelve-year-old Genuine Sweet, of tiny Sass, Georgia, can grant any wish . . . except her own. It's a peculiar predicament, considering how much she could use a few wishes. New friends help Genuine give her family a boost--and then she takes her gift global! Life finally seems to be on the mend. But when she's faced with unexpected trouble that no amount of wishing can fix, Genuine must puzzle out the difference between wishing for a better life and building one.
Told in the engaging, irresistible voice of Genuine Sweet herself, Faith Harkey's debut novel spins a remarkable tale of a small-town girl with big-time magic and an even bigger heart.

(288 pages)

I needed this book. Neck-deep in studying for my AP exams, my brain was fried and my patience thin. I had the sinking sensation that only comes when my stock of reviews has bled dry and I've got a week of reviews in my backlog before I'm plumb out of content. I had a couple of books on my review pile, but none that really caught my eye and made me pour out a heartfelt review for. The TBR pile at the foot of my bed was full of appealing titles, but they had been sitting there waiting for so long that they already felt cliche and already done.

And that's where Genuine Sweet came in. I'd seen a review of it somewhere and requested it on a whim, and the day I hit my all-time low this new, shiny book popped into my hands screaming "I'm fun! I'm unique! I'll make you smile!" And it sure was. And did. Out of all the small-town-quirky-magic books I've read in my life, this one has carved its own spot. Where many "uniquely quirky" books fail in their use of the same old outside-the-box tropes, Genuine Sweet manages to take a lonely girl with negligent/dead parents, a loving/wise grandmother, and a new best friend, and actually make something new out of it.

The idea of wish-fetching is a very neat one, and I love that Harkey uses it to dig deep into the selfishness of human nature, through the people who harass Genuine for wishes, and the true potential of wish fetching - saving people in third-world countries. The fact that Geniune and Jura are so concerned about making the world a better place was just awesome.

However, I would be leery of recommending Genuine Sweet as a Middle Grade book. Harkey crafts a great story, but she includes enough mature themes that i know I for one won't be handing this off to my middle-school aged brother. For example, Genuine has an extremely sweet and touching slow-bloom relationship with a boy (whom I won't name for fear of spoilers) that I absolutely adored for as long as I could forget the fact that they were in middle school. Then I remembered, and I liked it a whole lot less. It's just weird when they're that age!

Actually, that's probably the biggest issue with this book: Genuine's age. If only she were seventeen, and then I could adore the book to pieces without feeling uncomfortable! As it is, I can still adore it, but I can't figure out who to recommend it to. I guess I'd offer it to fans of books like SavvyScumble, Drizzle, and Remarkable. It ranks right up there by the best of this sub-genre of quirky small-town magic, and would be absolutely perfect if Genuine were just five years older.

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