In Print : "Wish" comes true for Islander
"Wish" by Alexandra Bullen, Point, 336 pages. $17.99.
It may not be exactly what Alexandra Bullen wished for when growing up in Massachusetts, or spending childhood summers at her family home in Katama, or even when she was in New York studying dramatic writing at New York University, but the gods have certainly smiled on this 28 year old, first-time author of young adult fiction.
Her novel "Wish" produced by Alloy Entertainment, and published in January by Point, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., is part of a two-part book deal, the second book scheduled for release next January. Alloy Entertainment produces books and creates related properties, films, and television shows for pre-teen and teenage markets, such as their mega hit, "Gossip Girl." Last year, 18 of their 29 new titles were on The New York Times children's best-seller list.
"Wish" tells the story of Olivia Larson, whose popular and fearless twin sister Violet, from whom Olivia was inseparable, dies. When her parents decide to move across country to San Francisco - a fresh start - Olivia, always shy, has the added burden of making a fresh start in a new school.
Nothing is easy for the lonely, self-conscious teen until she meets the magical dressmaker Posey, who makes her a gown, complete with a mystical butterfly, for a party she doesn't even want to attend. At the party, a distraught Olivia whispers, "I wish I had my sister back." Much to her amazement, her wish is soon granted. Violet, seen only by Olivia, is back, prodding and coaching her sister on how to fit in. "It's like seeing in color again, after months of living in black and white," Olivia says.
"Do you have a second?"
Olivia felt Violet not breathing behind her and Miles's watchful eyes on the back of her head. "Um, I guess, Olivia stuttered. "I mean, I -"
Violet jabbed her fist into the small of Olivia's back.
"Sure," Olivia squeaked. "What's up?"
As friendships are made and lost, a romance ignited, and her family challenged by its transitions, there are two more dresses, and two more wishes to be granted. The wishes come with stipulations: Olivia must be wearing the dress; she can't wish for the unattainable (world peace); can't wish for the same thing twice; and, oh yes, "Whatever you wish, wish carefully and make sure it comes from your heart."
Ms. Bullen has no relationships with twins on which to draw. She has two younger brothers; her mother is attorney Maria Krokidas, a founder of the Boston firm Krokidas & Bluestein, and her father, Bruce Bullen, CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. But as a youngster, she admits she imagined being a twin. "I always dreamed that I had somebody who was doing the same thing as I was at exactly the same time," she says. "I thought that would be such an amazing way to go through life...like having an imaginary friend."
When she began the book, Ms. Bullen had no intention of having Violet become an active part of the story, but Olivia took over. "Violet wasn't going to be in the book at all," Ms. Bullen explains, "but I kept feeling Olivia wanting to talk to her." She listened to her character.
"The comfortable decision for Olivia was to retreat into herself," she says, "but with Violet's help she was able to come into her own, even more fully than when Violet was alive."
Her romantic tale is densely wrapped in the realistic rhythms and tempos of contemporary high school teens. Although a fantasy, it reads more like a glossy account of the sort of pressures, ambitions, and everyday angst teens face- all captured in details, everything from the scenes in the high school cafeteria to the fragrances, cosmetics, backpacks, and tennis shoes teenagers wear. Beyond "cool," "whatever," and "awesome," Ms. Bullen has a keen ear for teen dialogue.
"I did a lot of research when I was in San Francisco," Ms. Bullen says. "I observed a lot of juniors in Urban High School in the Haight." She credits the students at Urban with setting an example of a very decent group of teens. "One of the conscious decisions I made was that I didn't want to have any mean girls in the book," she says.
With the first draft of her second book in the series completed (Posey and the magical dresses remain, but the main character is a girl who's looking for her birth mother), Bullen plans to continue writing: "I love being on the Vineyard, and it's an incredible place to write."
"Wish" is available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven.