Wishful Thinking, by Alexandra Bullen (Alloy Entertainment, 2011, YA, 243 pages)
The woman who had adopted Hazel died soon after she brought the baby home, leaving Hazel to a miserable and unsettled childhood. But she left a sealed envelope for Hazel to open when she turned eighteen, and inside was the answer to the question Hazel had been asking her whole life --the name of her real mother. A name distinctive enough to be google-able (Rosanna Scott).* And so Hazel decides to drop by a fundraising event hosted by Rosanna Scott, to try to meet her....and for that she needs to get her one fancy dress, a thrift store bargain that had called to her, mended.
When she gets it back from the seamstress, it is a different dress. The seamstress has worked magic (literally) and it is now a dress that will make Hazel's wish come true, with two more dresses, and concomitant wishes, in store as well.
At the fundraiser, Hazel is devastated to learn that Rosanna Scott had recently died. And so her first wish, made with all her heart, is that she could meet her mother....
The next thing she knows, Hazel is on the ferry bound for Martha's Vineyard, 18 years and eight months (give or take) in the past. She's about to meet the woman who will be her mother, she's about to fall in love, and she's about to make friendships that will strengthen her and change her life for ever. When she returns to her own time, not only will she know where she came from, but she'll know where she wants to go (for a start, art school in New York).
As time travel experiences go, Hazel's is the most idyllic I've ever read about. Not only does she meet a Really Cute Boy Who Fancies her within minutes of her arrival, Rosanna Scott immediately offers her a cushy and not un-interesting job, that comes with a place to stay and lots of cast off clothes. Despite the job, there's lots of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Martha's Vineyard, hang out at the beach, and eat tasty food. The only thing that stands in the way of Hazel's happiness is her prickly room-mate, who doesn't seem to want to be friends....even the mystery of why Hazel was given up for adoption seems not desperately pressing now that she has been taken to meet her mother and it has all turned out so well.
But the story of her birth is considerably more complicated than Hazel imagines, and it's always tricky to fall in love with someone eighteen years before the time when you belong. Fortunately, Hazel has two more dresses/wishes waiting for her...
So its a pleasantly light, romantic read, with sufficient inclusion of serious subject matter (giving up one's baby for adoption, growing up in foster care, searching for one's place in the world) to keep it from being all sweetness and light. Bullen does a nice job with Hazel's emotions, and makes her a person to care about. It's a companion novel to Bullen's first book, Wish (same dress, same magical seamstress); that book explored the death of a sibling, and packed considerably more emotional punch, but this one is more fun to read, what with the time travel and the mystery....
Here's what I like best about the series--the wonderful daydream of finding a dress that is absolutely perfect for me, not once, but three times; a dress that changes all by itself to give you just the look you need.... (note on cover--Hazel's third dress has "elegant golden flowers" embroidered on it. I think the cover designer's could have tried a bit harder to achieve that).
Here's what I'm wondering--how far back in time can you go before it's clear you are from the future? Hazel never once puts her foot into it by saying anything that dates her; like "Oh, Pluto isn't a planet" or what have you. 18 years isn't all that long ago, but surely there have been some changes in slang, style, and general way of being in the world that might be noticeable? (pause for thought...18 years ago was the tail end of my competitive bridge period, just before the competitive pool playing period....if I could look the same again (sigh), I don't think anyone back then would notice anything different about me if I were to travel back in time. Except that my both my bridge and my pool playing are not what they used to be).
*being nothing if not thorough I tried; the results are somewhat clouded by reviews of the book, but it seems reasonable, given that there are only 14 Rosanna Scotts in the US; 588 people have my name, which irks me.