Release Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Parental Warnings: mild substances; mild sexual references
When plain and unpopular Annie Nutter gets zapped by one of her dad’s whacked-out inventions, she lands in a parallel universe where her life becomes picture-perfect. Now she’s Ayla Monroe, daughter of the same mother but a different father—and she’s the gorgeous, rich queen bee of her high school.
In this universe, Ayla lives in glitzy Miami instead of dreary Pittsburgh and has beaucoup bucks, courtesy of her billionaire—if usually absent—father. Her friends hit the clubs, party backstage at concerts, and take risks that are exhilirating . . . and illegal. Here she’s got a date to lose her V-card with the hottest guy she’s ever seen.
But on the inside, Ayla is still Annie.
So when she’s offered the chance to leave the dream life and head home to Pittsburgh, will she take it?
The choice isn’t as simple as you think.
My sister picked this out. I had seen it before, but I didn’t really want to read it. She begged me to let her read it and she’d review it, but in the end, I decided to review it too.
It looked like fluff to me, although I had seen it in one of Kristi‘s “Books to Pine For” posts. I was experienced with reading about parallel universes, but in a completely different fashion. Before this book, I had only been reading The 13th Reality series by James Dashner, which is one of my favorite books. I’m a huge fan of the way that Dashner pulls this off and I even enjoyed Julie Cross’s version in Tempest, which I read after this.
It wasn’t fluffy. Okay, it was a bit. It was cute and adorable and fluffy, but it had heart and content. It was sweet and complex and much better than I thought it would be. The intricacy of the relationships and the ugliness behind the glamour was intriguing to say the least and would definitely draw me if I had known that the book contained this.
The good part about this read was that it was very quick. I read it in one sitting. At first my sister was planning on reading it because she picked it out, but I decided to kidnap it for a few hours. It read easily and didn’t require a huge amount of thought. It was engaging but still easy to relax into.
The plot has been overused many times, but even though it seems like it would be tiring, it somehow still worked. It seemed like the typical story for me. One of the things that usually happens in “books like these” is the nerdy girl wants to be the popular girl. She then becomes popular girl – gorgeous, happy, caught up in the parties and glamour of being one of the in crowd – and ends up discovering that everything is much worse in reality. The sparkles on the surface make way for darkness underneath.
It’s about the same for Annie/Ayla. Annie was always a geek, or an “Invisible”, wanting more than anything to be popular. It seemed like they had everything, all the guys, the best clothes, pretty much everything.
A lot of this book hinged on the idea to be careful what you wish for. In most books like these, it turns out that popularity isn’t all that and there is a lot of ugliness behind the prettiness. While this is standard fare for YA, it wasn’t as predictable as I thought it would be.
In all books like these, there is the makeover scene. The one where the girl wakes up or looks in the mirror and she is a completely different person. She touches her face, runs her fingers through her hair, looks around her to see if a fairy godmother is in the corner of the room because no way can this be her.
Although my personal favorite makeover scene is from The Squad: Perfect Cover by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, this one came pretty close. It was similar to others, but interesting. At first I found myself the tiniest bit bored because I was praying that it wouldn’t be stereotypical “geeky girl to hottie” but it actually kind of worked in this one. At least I didn’t think that Annie was that bad at first. She was just an average nice girl, but some people just want to be popular. They want to have what they don’t have, but not in a greedy way. Annie was likable, but she wanted to be one of the popular kids.
I found myself surprised by how much I enjoyed the science of it. I think that when I am older I would like to study quantum physics just because I find the concept fascinating. While the best explanation is by far in The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner, Roxanne St. Clair did a fine job of explaining the basics and expanding the theory to fit the situations in her novel.
It was smart, but written easily enough where the average person could pick it up in a heartbeat.
I really enjoyed the supporting characters. Annie’s friends and Ayla’s friends definitely helped the plot move along and created twists that I didn’t see coming. They weren’t a huge part of the book but they stimulated Annie’s character development and moved the plot along. There were several that I absolutely loved!
One thing that I enjoyed about this book was how her parents played a role in it. Recently in YA people have been noticing a trend in which the parents are absent or don’t impact the character development or plot. Annie is originally worried about her parent’s relationship because her father is a bit of a crazy inventor and her mother is regretting her life decisions. She’s worried that they may be falling out of love and her mother is wishing that she had married somebody else.
When she is Ayla, her parent’s relationship is no better. Her mother almost never sees her father and they don’t seem as happy, although this time it isn’t about her father’s crazy inventing. In fact, she doesn’t have the same father. She has a rich and selfish father who is a famous plastic surgeon in Miami.
Annie’s friends as Ayla were bad influences and I was proud of her for recognizing that. From shoplifting to doing drugs, they were the type of negative people that you wouldn’t want to surround yourself with. They were mean to each other and selfish, and although this type of behavior is usually portrayed in similar books, it wasn’t stereotypical.
The romance in this book was more like a friendship than a relationship, which I love. My older sister has had a few boyfriends and their relationships have been like that. In my stories, I want it to be like that. A boyfriend should be romantic, but also like a best friend. It definitely worked out in this way in Don’t You Wish which was one of my highlights of the book.
Charlie was the love interest. The one who all the popular kids warned Annie to stay away from. He was poor and was to be avoided at all costs. Annie is attracted to him, but she’s worried that it might come down to popularity or him. Charlie was so sweet. He was the type of nice-guy in YA that I would love to see more of. He was nice, smart, and funny. He was like the guy that you would be with in real life, and I loved the scenes with him in there.
There’s a bit of tragedy in there towards the end when I was worried about Charlie and Annie/Ayla. It was the perfect bit of romantic tension that is needed for any romance story to work out.
The 13th Reality series is one that I kept making comparisons to because of the similar focus on quantum physics and parallel universes. While they were completely different (one being a clever and fantastical MG with a darker focus while the other is a heartwarming YA with an in-depth focus on popularity), I still found myself enjoying the comparisons. The 13th Reality is still funny, but darker because it relates to the end of the world. It’s intense and incredible. Don’t You Wish is character-driven, not plot driven, but it’s still as unputdownable as the former.
Annie is convinced that she has a horrible life, and that’s okay sometimes. I don’t think she would have been so upset if her mother wasn’t upset with the life her father gave her and wondering what would have happened if she had married her rich ex-boyfriend instead. That provoked the question that started it in Annie’s mind: what would happen if she were the daughter of her mother and her high school sweetheart?
Ayla seems to have a fabulous life. She has all the right clothes, the hottest guys in school pining over her, an incredible boyfriend, a sprawling mansion, and everything that she could ever want. She isn’t one of the popular kids that Annie wants to be; she is THE popular kid. She’s that girl that everybody wants to be.
There is a darker side. Annie/Ayla finds herself surprised by the drugs, shoplifting, cattiness, and secrets of the inner circle. Popularity isn’t what she thought that it would be. Her friends are mean to her and pressure her into doing things that she doesn’t want to do and her boyfriend is pressuring her to lose her virginity. Everything that Annie thought that popularity would be like is slipping away from her.
The ending was definitely predictable. It reminded me of almost every other book with a similar plotline. My favorite part about the ending was definitely a scene at the end. It was wrapped up nicely and easily, but realistically as well. I personally suck at writing endings, so I’m envious of writers who make it look effortless.
Annie was relatable. Almost everybody feels unwanted or lonely at some point or another. She didn’t have an awful life, but she was still unhappy by her lack of money and how she didn’t fit in with the people at her school. She had put all her hope that if she were one day one of the popular kids, everything would change. She would feel loved and beautiful, and have the perfect life, so it was something that she dreamed about. For such a used plotline, the characterization made it shine. Annie was relatable, but still fresh enough to keep me entertained and interested in her character development.
She was also smart. Her funny ways of looking at the world were entertaining and clear. After her crush humiliated her in front of the entire school, Annie is convinced that she needs a new life to be happy. When she becomes Ayla, she discovers how similar her life is, even with all the glitz and glamour. Ayla still has issues: problems with friends, with her parents, with self-discovery. Annie and Ayla are more alike than they thought, the only difference being that one has Gucci bags.
The book overall was heartwarming and more complex that I thought it would be, even though it used a familiar plot. The characters were developed and while the ending was predictable, it was more surprising than I thought it would be. I will definitely recommend this to several of my friends and I was satisfied with the ending. The romance, character development, and writing was wonderful.
Recommended for anybody who loves: Tempest; Before I Fall; Love Story; Anna and the French Kiss; etc,.
Possible book club questions:
Would you change your life for popularity?
How do you think you would be different if you woke up like Annie, in your dream life?
How did her parent’s relationships influence Annie/Ayla (in both lives)?