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What You Wish For

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Samantha Casey is a school librarian who loves her job, the kids, and her school family with passion and joy for living. But she wasn’t always that way.

Duncan Carpenter is the new school principal who lives by rules and regulations, guided by the knowledge that bad things can happen. But he wasn’t always that way.

And Sam knows it. Because she knew him before—at another school, in a different life. Back then, she loved him—but she was invisible. To him. To everyone. Even to herself. She escaped to a new school, a new job, a new chance at living. But when Duncan, of all people, gets hired as the new principal there, it feels like the best thing that could possibly happen to the school—and the worst thing that could possibly happen to Sam. Until the opposite turns out to be true. The lovable Duncan she’d known is now a suit-and-tie wearing, rule-enforcing tough guy so hell-bent on protecting the school that he’s willing to destroy it.

As the school community spirals into chaos, and danger from all corners looms large, Sam and Duncan must find their way to who they really are, what it means to be brave, and how to take a chance on love—which is the riskiest move of all.

With Katherine Center’s sparkling dialogue, unforgettable characters, heart, hope, and humanity, What You Wish For is the author at her most compelling best.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published July 14, 2020

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About the author

Katherine Center

21 books11.9k followers
BookPage calls Katherine Center “the reigning queen of comfort reads.” She's the New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including How to Walk Away, Things You Save in a Fire, and What You Wish For. Her summer 2022 book is The Bodyguard. The movie adaptation of her novel The Lost Husband (starring Josh Duhamel) hit #1 on Netflix, and her novel Happiness for Beginners is in production as a Netflix original movie (starring Ellie Kemper and Luke Grimes) right now. Katherine writes laugh-and-cry books about how life knocks us down—and how we get back up. She’s been compared to both Jane Austen and Nora Ephron, and the Dallas Morning News calls her stories, “satisfying in the most soul-nourishing way.” Her books have made countless Best-Of lists, including RealSimple’s Best Books of 2020, Amazon's Top 100 Books of 2019, Goodreads' Best Books of the Year, the Indie Next Great Reads List, and many more. Katherine lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her husband, two kids, and their fluffy-but-fierce dog.

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5 stars
9,487 (23%)
4 stars
17,173 (42%)
3 stars
11,345 (27%)
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529 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,760 reviews
Profile Image for Katherine Center.
Author 21 books11.9k followers
February 27, 2020
I tried not to click on the stars this time. I really did. But HOW CAN I NOT click on them?

They're just lined up there, all sad and empty, just . . . LONGING to be clicked.

I blame the stars.

And now I've just found the title of my autobiography: I Blame the Stars
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,202 reviews40.8k followers
June 21, 2022
What you wish for? I wish to read this book ASAP and I’m really thankful to my lucky stars and witchy powers. Here I am. I devoured it at one sit. I’m personally in love with those amazing characters. I’m giggling like imbecile teenager (so happy you haven’t met with my 13 years old version, you would like to punch me to wipe my ridiculous smile) seeing the vivid colors of the world that wash my heart with pure joy (See! I started to talk like Anne from Green Gables! This is side effect of reading something so powerful and beautiful)

I think Katherine Center’s books should be sold at drugstore because they’re the best medicines for human souls. You laugh, you cry, you smile, you sigh and as soon as you finish it, the positive energy took control of your nervous system. You want to dance, you want to sing and you want to share your joy with your loved ones.
In my opinion all those shrinks suggest to their patients to read her books instead of prescribing mind-number, meaningless pills.

This book is a little different from her previous works. The characters still deal with traumatic problems, carrying their burdens, and this is amazing self-discovery, friendship, solidarity book like her previous books but I have to admit this is most romantic story that the author wrote. Samantha and Duncan’s are easy to resonate and their longtime love story melts your heart.

Samantha changes her life by quitting her job, starting over at Galveston, Texas, renting a place at lovely 60 year old couple Babette and Max’s house, working at their school. She lost her family (mother died, father is out of the picture) when she was young. So Babette and Max was not only her bosses, but also became her best friends, her real family till the day Max loses his life at their anniversary party.

Samantha deals with her illness since from her own childhood, keeps as secret from everyone which also prevents her to form a romantic relationship. She only fell in love with one man but as she finds out her love is unrequited and the man moved on his life with another woman, she moves to Texas with Max and Babette’s help changes her perspective, bringing more color, joy, love, happiness into her life, getting rid of grey clothes, wearing polka dots, clown socks, flowered hats, sharing her happiness and knowledge with young kids.

Then she finds out, after Max’s death, a new principal will take his place, the very same person she fell in love six years ago, making her quit her job.: Duncan Carpenter is going to be her new boss. When she thinks she has to quit again, she gets shocked with the personal changes of Duncan. The man she fell in love is gone. A strict, serious, business oriented, cold, humorless man took over his place. It feels like he suffers from amnesia or her evil twin took over his place. And guess what? He doesn’t even remember her!!!!And new Duncan decides to turn their colorful, entertaining, heavenly school into a grey, soulless prison with his over sensitive, extreme safety precautions. So Samantha has to do something to save her school and learn what happened to playful, entertaining, friendly Duncan.

Samantha lives in the shadows, wearing grey, feeling blue till she comes to Galveston and rediscovers herself, begins to blossom. Now she has a plan to bring the old Duncan back, showing him the real colors of life and pure joy of happiness.

But you know the happiness does not come easily. You gotta put your heart at risk, open your mind and soul to grab it as like Samatha said at the book: “I bite and scratch and claw my way toward happiness every day”
This is beautiful journey about love, grief, loss, friendship, pain, suffer, losing and finding yourself.

Both Samantha and Duncan suffer from their own traumatic pasts, both of them still hurt but as Samantha raises her head to see the stars at the darkest time of the night, Duncan prefers to hide behind the shadows. Now Samantha will teach him find his true colors.

Max , Babette, math nerd bestie Alice (she needs her own book, I loved her sense of humor and taste of outfits!), brainerd Clay are my other favorite characters.
Overall: I truly loved it so much. It’s feel-good, addictive, astonishing, entertaining, inspirational book about love, happiness, second chances and personal growth with memorable characters. Let’s not forget its beautiful cover!

Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for sharing this incredible ARC of one of my favorite authors in exchange my honest review. And dear Katherine Center, please keep on writing your amazing stories.

Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
793 reviews12.4k followers
March 22, 2020

If circumstances were different right now, I probably would be ripping this book apart. The characters are a little bit much and drove me crazy. The cheese factor is through the roof. However, it has a lovely message about finding joy, which is much needed right now. Overall, it served as a pleasant escape during these difficult times.
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,114 reviews2,806 followers
July 15, 2022
Elementary school librarian Samantha Casey (call her Sam) left her last school because she was lovingly obsessed with fellow teacher, Duncan Carpenter. Once he became engaged, she couldn't stand to see him anymore, despite the fact that they hardly knew each other and it shouldn't have mattered what Duncan did in his private life. Several years later Duncan is the new principal at Sam's Galveston school and she's sure she'll need to run again, because of her feelings. But the Duncan she used to know, funny, quirky, goofy, Duncan, is gone and instead, Duncan is stoic, dogmatic, and determined to take away everything this is loved at Sam's school. 

What ensues is Sam wondering if Duncan even remembers who she is, misunderstandings, a roller coaster ride, and a cute ten year old boy named Clay, who is interesting enough to star in a book all of his own. Oh, and there is Chuck Norris, Duncan's failure of a security dog labradoodle. Sam has a serious health issue that she knows will keep anyone from loving her and Duncan has something in his near past that has changed him from the wild dressing, sweetheart he used to be, into a heartless hunky body in a gray suit. Sam goes from planning to quit her job to making it her mission to have Duncan fired for all the changes he plans for the school. Both Sam and Duncan have lessons to learn about life before either one of them can find happiness and peace...and maybe a meeting of minds. 

Published July 14, 2020.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for this ARC.
Profile Image for JanB .
1,146 reviews2,526 followers
May 3, 2020
This was just dreadful. The author is my go-to for a heartwarming, lighter read with substance, but this book was so silly and over-the-top I thought my eyes would roll out of my head.

I'm sorry I wasted my time. This was a buddy read with my friend Marialyce and we were both disappointed.

*I received a digital copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Terrie  Robinson.
397 reviews586 followers
February 13, 2022
"What You Wish For" by Katherine Center is a story with a meaningful message!

Samantha Casey's and Duncan Carpenter's paths have crossed before. Yep! They worked at the same school together several years ago. In fact, Sam had a secret 'crush' on Duncan. She had it bad for him. He never knew it though because Sam suddenly left her job and moved to Galveston, TX.

Sam is the school librarian at a private elementary school on the historic island. A school where she's been embraced by the community and especially by Max, the school principal and his wife, Babette.

Now it's been announced that Duncan will be replacing Max as the new principal. You see, Max died rather suddenly. It happened at the school during his 60th Birthday celebration. The entire community was there and is now mourning the loss of Dear-Sweet-Beloved-Max!

Sam is kind of excited about the announcement but a bit anxious, too. She's wondering if Duncan will remember her. And, she's worried about what she'll do if he does...

But, Principal Duncan isn't the quirky, fun and goofy Duncan Sam remembers. This Duncan is unrecognizable. Instead of wearing outlandish outfits with clown socks, he wears a 3 piece gray suit. Every day! He doesn't smile or joke or laugh either. Worst of all, he doesn't appear to recognize Sam!

And, if that isn’t enough, Duncan wants to make drastic changes to this beautiful school. Gray paint over everything with gates and locks and security measures that is extremely, extreme. This can't be happening! He's gotta be stopped!

But, both Sam and Duncan have something to hide. There's a reason for the big change in Duncan. And, there's a deeper reason why Sam never steps beyond a quiet and secret crush....

This story is told in the first person voice of Sam, the librarian. And, what a colorful voice it is! Thérèse Plummer, once again, is the narrator of this Katherine Center audiobook. The animation in her voice and her magical, believable voicing abilities of both female and male characters is pure entertainment. What a delight!

What a diverse group of characters! Principal Max and wife Babette who are Sam's confidante's and landlords, Alice "the math wizard" and supportive friend to Sam, Nine year old Clay Buckley who is a super smart student and super reader, and Labradoodle Chuck Norris, the worst security dog EVER! Who doesn't love a story with a dog, right? And, of course, Sam and Duncan! This is what makes a Katherine Center book so amazing to me: The eclectic mix of characters!

There's also the humor factor mixed with socially relevant topics this author splices into her stories. This one is peppered with unconditional friendships and sense of community, as well. How great is that?

This is my fourth read from this author, it wasn't my most favorite but it's still up there and it won't be the last one I read! I highly recommend this book to all who have the ability to read!
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,828 reviews29.1k followers
April 25, 2021
1.5 Stars

I have read two other books by Katherine Center and really enjoyed them, so I was really looking forward to this one. I put it off for a bit though because I saw that reviews were somewhat mixed. And now I definitely understand why as this just completely missed the mark for me.

I'm not trying to be scathing here as I really did appreciate the message of joy the book was trying to send, but...holy quirky sugar overload, folks. If you've been following my reviews for a while, you might know my stance on quirky-overkill...

Spoiler alert: I can't stand it.

And this book had it going on in spades. There was just too much effort made to make these characters whimsical and free-spirited and, I'm sorry, but polka dots, Hawaiian shirts, hot dog covered ties, and pink bang diarrhea cannot be the sole legs upon which character development stands. There was just too much much of it, too often.

And Duncan's "former self," as it were...good God, he sounds like he was a complete nutcase and I got tired just reading about his supposed antics. I can't even imagine being the poor guy's coworker and having him bust into my personal teaching space for a random dance mob marathon. I know it was supposed to sound like he was the endearing heart of the school, but to me he just sounded like an immature asshat who needed to always be the center of attention. I know people who act like that. I'm sure we all do. And it might be endearing or "oh my gosh, he's just so fun" to be around once or twice. But after awhile? It's just obnoxious.

The only characters that played off like actual adults here were current grumpy Duncan, asshole Kent, bitchy Tina, and sad little nine-year-old Clay (for whom we are supposedly to feel pity, hatred, disdain, and empathy, respectively). Everyone else seemed like a total child. And maybe that makes me an asshole, and...that's fine. I accept that.

And don't even get me started on the "twist" that is blatantly obvious the minute Duncan shows up transformed and focused solely on school safety. It felt like overly ripe, low-hanging fruit and - because I couldn't get invested in ANY of the characters - the sakes never felt high enough for it.

But in the end, oh well. I am sure the guileless joy this book brought to a lot of readers was very welcome, I think I am just too cynical for these types of characters. I struggled with this book for the same reason. Still, I look forward to the next Katherine Center book. You can't win them all and that's okay.
Profile Image for Tina Loves To Read.
2,458 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2022
This is a romance/chick lit. The narrators (Katherine Center and Therese Plummer) where really good. I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook. I listen to audiobooks at a higher speed then the normal speed because I have listen to audiobooks for years now I a found the higher speed works for me. The overall story I really liked. This is the second book I read by this author. I found there is some things happen in this book that was close to the other book. I really loved the ending of this book. I have to say I love the covers for Katherine's book because they are so bright and colorful. I was kindly provided an e-audiobook of this book by the publisher (St. Martin's Press and Macmillan Audio) or author (Katherine Center) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review about how I feel about this book, and I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,140 reviews1,895 followers
July 28, 2020
3.5 rounded up

You know that song by Lee Ann Womack called “I Hope You Dance” ? 💃🏻

This book reminds me of that song...

It may not be the “love story” you are expecting when you pick up the book.
It’s not steamy and sexy...(though in a way that was refreshing!)

Sure, it has Samantha Casey...a quirky librarian you will want to root for.

And, it has Duncan Carpenter, the new Principal and her potential love interest.
He is also a character that you have met before in one of her earlier novels,
“Happiness for Beginners”.

Of course, they will have their share of misunderstandings and miscommunications, along the way, as all “romance stories” do...

And, you will expect a happy ending...because, that is why we read these books...

But, this book is almost more about the love of a community, than it is about the PG rated potential romance of Sam and Duncan.

It’s a community that comes together when the beloved Principal and Founder of their school, Max, passes away-
And, those who replace him, including Duncan Carpenter, try to “fix what isn’t broken”.

One where friends ARE YOUR family, and they are there for Max’s widow, Babette. And, others along the way...

In ways that are heartwarming and touching. 💕

I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as “Things You Save In A Fire”, or “Happiness For Beginners” but I did like it’s message....about finding joy where you can-although it WAS a bit overdone!

This can be read as a standalone, but, why not meet Duncan and some other characters who make an appearance in this book by reading “Happiness for Beginners” first!

I think you might enjoy it more, if you do!

Another great buddy read with DeAnn! 🤗

I would like to thank the Publisher for inviting me to read a digital ARC, provided through NetGalley, in exchange for a candid review!
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,574 reviews5,911 followers
July 17, 2020

Good lort. This whole dang book tried to hard. And failed.

Samantha is the librarian at her dream school. She ran away from her last one because her crush didn't know she was alive. I mean the woman packed her shit and left. I can not even. I'm not even going to rant on this. Let's move on.

So miss thang is at her dream job and her beloved principal/substitute parent passes away and they find out his replacement at the school is her crush. *insert surprise face here*
Samantha is all excited because she remembers him as this fun guy.

He is not that guy anymore. He is an ass.

Oh the hell with it. I hated this damn book. It's boring as hell and the level of cheese had me hating on cheese and I love damn cheese.

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,293 reviews35k followers
July 16, 2020
Finding Joy....one butterfly at a time....

Samantha (Sam) Casey is an elementary school librarian on the island of Galveston, Texas. When the school tragically loses their principal, she finds that his replacement is her crush from a former job, Duncan Carpenter. But Duncan is not the Duncan she remembers, he is tough, and on a mission to make sure that the school is safe and secure, butterflies but damned. Fearing that Duncan is about to take away everything that she loves, she decides it is time to fight back!

We've all heard the adage "Don't judge a book by its cover" it's also hard not to judge a book based on other books written by the same Author (**cough cough Things You Save in a Fire). So, trying not to do that, I dove into this book. If you are looking for a fast read with some romance and a message about finding "Joy" this book will be for you. I loved the premise of finding things that make you happy and doing/surrounding yourself with them. I think we all need to do that.

From the get-go, I wondered about Samantha's age as she came off as younger and immature at times to me while everyone else felt older. I did like how she stood up for herself and she slowly grew on me. She comes off as whimsical, sassy and caring of others. Duncan fit the bill as the hot guy who was once fun and silly and is now stoic and serious. Basically, he is hot to trot with an attitude! Samantha cannot determine if he remembers working with her or not. He does not appear to remember her...

As far as romances go, they are all pretty predictable. We all basically know who is going to end up with who in the end - it is about the journey of how they get there that matters. I enjoyed the journey in this book. I liked watching the characters as they learned more about each other - I'm not just talking about Sam and Duncan. Many characters in this book grow and other characters learn things about each other as they take a stand, find their voice, share their secrets, expose their fears and possibly get what they wish for! I also enjoyed how both of the main characters were at different stages of starting over in their lives and for different reasons.

This book is joyful even if predictable. It did not wow me as her other books have but it was still enjoyable. It is a light easy read perfect for when you need a break from reality. I appreciated all the heavy subjects she addressed in this novel (death, epilepsy, school shooting, etc.) Sharing things that affect you deeply can be scary, and I felt the character’s verbalization of their fears, concerns, etc. were believable.

I look forward to more books by Katherine Center in the future as they bring me joy.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.6k followers
September 17, 2020
quirky school librarian + stuffy school principal = classic romcom shenanigans.

yes, this story is cute. it has everything you want from a story about two people trying to both grow and help each other. but its very over the top, like all romcoms are.

also, the fact that sam is sooo determined to change duncan kind of rubbed me the wrong way. there are a few lines here and there that are meant to make the whole situation a little more kosher, but its still a little problematic for me personally. thats the only reason im not rating this higher.

but if you love flirty, carefree stories set in a small town, then this is the book for you!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Tina.
512 reviews796 followers
June 20, 2022
I finally got around to reading a Katherine Center book! Boy, will I read more from this author. I can tell she will be a favourite of mine!

4.5 *

I listened to the audio which is a glowing 5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
The story was a full 4 🌟🌟🌟🌟

I loved the message and the joy in this book! 🥰
I listened to the Audiobook and at the end there was an Author's note read by the author herself all about what makes fictional stories so powerful with readers. I loved her quote.

"We know they are not true but we believe them anyway."

How true is that? I loved her thoughts on reading for joy. Point on! Kudos to this author.

There were also 2 excerpts on her newest novel, "The Bodyguard." I will read it for sure!

Profile Image for Susanne.
1,159 reviews36.8k followers
July 28, 2020
The Underlying Message here is: Choose Joy!

Life. It Goes On.

Living on the Island of Galveston, in Texas, Samantha Casey’s life is perfect. That is, until the day that her former crush, Duncan Carpenter walks back into her life. Samantha is an Elementary School Librarian. Duncan is the school’s new principal. Samantha would love to run and hide, but alas, she doesn’t need to because Duncan doesn’t remember her, even though they previously worked together for 3 years. What Samantha notices however is that Duncan is not the same man she remembers. He is no longer the funny, goofy, outgoing, silly guy she once knew. He is a shell of his former self and he has big plans for the school and it’s up to Samantha to stop him. No one ever said that life was easy!

Katherine Center is my go to author when I need a laugh and a smile (and to shed a tear or two). When I heard that “What You Wish For” was coming out, I was chomping at the bit for 6 months to get a copy. My book buddy Kaceey and I read it shortly after “Happiness for Beginners” which features Duncan Carpenter’s sister Helen (which we loved, and in which Duncan is also a peripheral character). Needless to say, we were even more excited after reading “Happiness” and couldn’t wait to dive in.

As soon as I started this novel, I could tell that it was different from her last few. There are no moments of hysterical laughter and there are very few moments where I felt like I normally feel while reading her novels. It wasn’t until about 100 pages in (when a few “friends” from “Happiness for Beginners” appeared), that things turned around. Slowly, ever so slowly this novel took a turn and I became invested. Still, I thought to myself, there could have been so many moments where Ms. Center could have included laughter and levity between Samantha and her friend Alice and didn’t.

Further, this novel deals with several extremely important themes, one of which I am, unfortunately, quite familiar with, and because of that I felt that certain parts of the storyline and the aspects that were portrayed, didn’t quite ring true and I couldn’t help but be bothered by that.

What Ms. Center excels at however, is her characterizations. Can I just say Yay for Samantha Casey? What a gem she is! Bold, bright and willing to stand up for what she believes in. Then there is Babette. A strong woman who loves and supports Samantha throughout, regardless of what she, personally is going through. Alice rounds out this trio as being the best friend a girl could ask for. What I love about Katherine Center’s novels is that she often includes strong women and strong female friendships/relationships in her novels and this novel was no different. Ms. Center also took on both Samantha’s journey as well as Duncan’s and let them grow as individuals before allowing them to find that special something.

While this isn’t quite what I was looking for in a Katherine Center novel, it delivered something else entirely. What I would suggest for other readers, is to go into this one with no expectations. In that way, perhaps you will get exactly “What You Wish For.”

Another buddy read with Kaceey!

Thank you to Marissa Sangiacomo at St. Martins Press and Katherine Center for the arc.

Published on Goodreads on 4.26.20.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,817 reviews32.4k followers
December 9, 2022
4.5 stars

We didn't fix everything for each other--but we didn't have to. We just made a choice to be there. Which counted for a lot.

I love Katherine Center’s books so much. There is something about them that make me so happy. This book had a mantra of sorts- ‘choose joy’, which is appropriate since Center’s books always seem to bring me joy when I read them.

What You Wish For follows Samantha Casey, school librarian. Her school radiates joy and she loves her job so much. When she loses someone close to her who happens to be her school’s principal, she’s not sure how the school will go on. But then she hears his replacement is Duncan Carpenter, the Duncan she knew and loved who was so much fun at a past job and she just knows things will be okay.

The Duncan Carpenter who shows up to work is not the same Duncan she once knew. He is not carefree, fun, and full of laughter. He’s serious, focused on safety and safety only and is willing to take away her place of joy to make the school a ‘safe place’ which seems more and more like a prison.

There is more than Duncan that meets the eye, and though I guessed much of his back story fairly early on, it was still heartbreaking. The first half of this book was good for me, but the second half is where it really shined. Duncan and Sam balanced each other out so perfectly. I loved them together. Also, if you’ve read ‘Happiness for Beginners’, you’ll get a little glimpse into Helen and Jake’s future (Duncan is Helen’s younger brother and Jake’s best friend) which was great!

Overall, this book made me happy. It had emotional moments, but I had such a big smile on my face while reading. I love people that are unapologetically themselves and live life to the fullest. This was just the book I needed right now and I’m so glad I read it.
Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,070 reviews3,613 followers
April 26, 2020
Having recently finished Happiness For Beginners I couldn't wait to dive into this latest release by Katherine center. I grew quite fond of some of the characters and was excited to learn they would carry over into this book.

With the sudden death of much beloved school principal, a close community is reeling! No one could ever replace a fine man like that in their hearts and minds. For Samantha it was even a tougher blow, as she lost not only her boss, but a close friend, and father figure.

As new principal Duncan Carpenter is hired, Samantha Casey is understandably filled with mixed emotions. She’s familiar with this man from her past. And she’s not at all sure she’s ready to face him again. Upon greeting one another on his first day, Samantha's concerns are confirmed. Duncan is far from the man she remembered.

Though the story-line felt weak at times, Katherine Center always manages to add the right amount of “feel good” content to keep a smile on the readers face. There are life-lessons galore to take away from this book, and I know those will stay with me.

Though this may not have been my favorite by Ms. Center it still gave my heart hope. And as always I came away with a big grin on my face. Already looking forward to her next!

A buddy read with Susanne

Thank you to Marissa Sangiacomo at St Martin's Press for an ARC to read and review.
Profile Image for Holly  B (Short break!).
815 reviews1,869 followers
July 11, 2020
After loving Things You Save in a Fire, I was looking forward to this one.

I was expecting a beach read, but found this novel a bit of a miss. It was predictable and the characters weren't particularly interesting or memorable.

I found the school setting and happenings very unlikely and unbelievable. I liked that Samantha was a teacher and searching for joy, but this premise didn't add up or make for an inspiring story.

Seems that the author was reaching for the stars, but just didn't catch the sparkle that her previous novels had. I'll be curious about her next novel and hope she brings back the charm.

Thanks to St Martins Press for my review copy! OUT on JULY 14, 2020
Profile Image for Kay ☼.
1,966 reviews675 followers
July 9, 2022
This is an excellent summer read with a very quirky main lead Samantha, a school librarian. The narration was fabulous! Sam seems very energetic (or is it the speed I listened to?) I feel like she drank too many Red Bulls. But I LOVED it anyway. This is the kind of book that leaves you happy and satisfied when finished.

I will definitely read more by this author. This is my first book and I very much enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Christine on hiatus, see “About me”.
589 reviews1,143 followers
October 25, 2020
What You Wish For (Katherine Center) review—May 27, 2020

4.25 stars rounded to 4 stars

I love this author. Her books make me happy. My all-time favorite continues to be Happiness For Beginners, but I really enjoyed this one too.

Sam Casey is hiding something. And she is also pining for someone. But the two are mutually exclusive. How in the world can she find joy with this spiritual albatross around her neck? What to do? Duncan Carpenter is guarding a secret too. He also has his eye on someone. Again, he can’t have his cake and eat it too. And Duncan knows there is nothing he can do about this dreadful situation. Nothing.

Allow me to digress for a minute. Just look at that gorgeous cover. I practically cherish it. But alas, my ARC does not bear that cover so I am going to do something rash and go buy the book just so I can gaze at that cover on my Kindle. I will sacrifice fresh blueberries on my cereal for a week to do that. The title? Meh, not so much. One of those forgettable titles that merge with a million other book names. “Happiness for Beginners,” “Things You Save in a Fire”—now these are unique, eye-catching, and unforgettable; I didn’t even to have to look them up. Ms. Center, please throw your prestige around and insist on a say on your titles. Don’t let your otherwise kind publisher deprive your books of the distinctive titles they deserve. Minus ¼ star for that.

Sam and Duncan. BTW, awesome move bringing Duncan back from Happiness for Beginners. I gave Happiness for Beginners 4.5 stars as I was trying to be tough. But in retrospect, that book is 5 stars all the way. I was mad though. I was mad that the epilogue occurred ten minutes after the last chapter ended and didn’t tell us more about the future of my beloved HFB characters. Well, Ms. Center must have heard me as we have encore performances of several HFB cast members in this book, which is set about 6 or so years later. So Happiness for Beginners is getting it’s full five stars as of today. I still think about that book. Sigh. Love it to death.

Back to Sam and Duncan. Geez, I felt so bad for Sam. What a dilemma she finds herself in. But Sam is able to dredge up strength she never knew she had. And much of it is because of a couple of oldsters, Max and Babette. Every lost soul should have a Max and Babette. I really enjoy these books with wise old people. Everyone should have an elderly mentor (think Mrs. G. in Have You Seen Luis Velez?) I’m not kidding. Big points for these characters. And math whiz Alice. Who knew math drives all of existence? Then there’s Clay Buckley, a most wonderful kid. Alice and Clay would be awesome spinoff characters for their own stories. Duncan though. It pains me to say it took quite a while for me to warm up to the guy. I think it is the fact that he is really struggling, but that is not obvious at first, and Ms. Center does not let us into his mind until late. But better late than never, right? I love the dude now. But that darned delay in us getting to know Duncan better cost this story 1/2 star. Sorry to be so rough on you, Ms. Center, but it’s totally tough love.

Kudos though for the epilogue. A nice one.

Ms. Center’s writing is truly boffo IMHO. She can really tell a tale. Her dialogue is spot on. And her humor is my humor. Big Props!!! Her books make me happy. I know I already said that, but I’m saying it again. This is the very first time I ever bothered to highlight quotes in a book. I want to be able to read them anytime I want—she is so smart in working powerful life lessons into her stories.

I only have four Katherine Center books left to read. Makes me panicky. Guess I will be forced to savor them by not reading them too quickly. I will try.

For all of you who have made it so far through this rambling review, I want you to know my bottom line. And that’s that Katherine Center books are recommended for everybody who wants to feel happy! And who wouldn’t that be, yeah?

I would like to thank Net Galley, St. Martin’s Press, and Ms. Katherine Center for an ARC of this title. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :).
992 reviews2,780 followers
July 15, 2020

This is another one of those books that I hoped I would love. I’m a big fan of “Things You Save In A Fire”, but that was a much stronger book with more to keep me interested.

This novel starts very slowly as we get to know Sam, Samantha Casey, just at the time that the principal of her beloved elementary school passes away. He wasn’t just the principal, he and his wife were the life and breath of the school. All of their ideas from many years poured into the school.The school year is going to start soon but when Sam learns who the new principal is, she is frantic.

She has a long history with Duncan Carpenter as she worked with him for two years at a previous position. The Duncan that she remembers was light hearted, loved to play with the kids and made school fun, she had a major “crush” on him but never acted on it. The new Duncan is intent on changing a lot about the school. The staff quickly learns, at their first meeting, that Duncan is here to make major changes. No more field trips, no more bubbles in the yard. He is determined to remake the school into one that is as safe as possible for the students but forgetting that there are many other things that go into making a great school. The enthusiasm of the teachers is soon really quenced when he repaints the walls a sterile gray, along with changing the carpet to a boring neutral color also. Before the school was awash in children’s art, a painted rainbow, and the most unique of all, a wall of butterflies that Sam and Duncan’s wife Babette, had meticulously painted the summer before. Sam arrives one day to find the entire mural painted over.

The story reminded me a bit of the last one, a woman who has a history with someone who now shows up in her new life. Sam has changed but so has Duncan and she is determined to find out why.

Unfortunately the novel is quite predictable and they are both hiding secrets. Turns out they both have a problem with telling the people they love how they really feel and opening up to them, including any physical or emotional trauma.

At times I thought this read more like a YA novel, I didn’t feel as though the characters were particularly likable or relatable.

If you want a light beach read this would be just the ticket, for me it was a disappointment. I still got some laughs out of it and perhaps the reminder to try to find joy in everything around us.
This was a buddy read with my No Rules-Just Thrills friend, Marilyn.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley.
This book is set to publish on July 14, 2020
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,077 reviews491 followers
August 14, 2021
My thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What You Wish For was a magical, emotional read for me, full of colourful characters who dressed like circus performers and who had no issue with spontaneous outbursts of pure Joy.

Having the courage to embrace life, to soldier on and do or find the things that bring you joy, despite all the misery and unhappiness that may still be hovering on your horizon, was a major theme in this novel. Duncan, the new school principal, had endured a horrible trauma which completely changed his happy-go-lucky outlook on life. Katherine Center truly impressed me with her excellent portrayal of a man suffering from PTSD.

The main character, Samantha, comes to understand - after a death defying stunt of her own - that most of us have not experienced fear at the same level that persons suffering from PTSD have. Expecting PTSD sufferers to magically heal by "changing their attitudes" or "thinking about more positive things" is never going to be realistic. There is no quick fix solution. Some damage is irrevocable, and the person you knew before is and will remain forever changed by his or her trauma.

I have always had great respect for Katherine Center's emotional intelligence. Not only is she a gifted writer, but she understands what makes us human's act and behave the way we do - and then turns it into an unforgettable novel. I loved spending time with Samantha, Duncan, Alice - loved all those math jokes!, Babette and, of course, the budding young genius, Clay.

Babette's "wake up" speech to Samantha - about how it takes courage to accept love and joy into our lives and how we don't always get to hold on to that joy and love - earned a standing ovation from me. I highly, highly recommend this funny, sometimes sad, but downright joyous story about people trying to overcome their life-altering tragedies, and move back towards life.

I've gone against the tide of some initial GR reviewers' disapproval for this book. I, in fact, didn't realize that the Duncan in this story was the goofy brother in Happiness for Beginners. Well, now that I realize this, I can perfectly understand the zaniness in this story, and I wanted to rate it even HIGHER! Younger Duncan did need to grow up, but the shattered Duncan in this story needed someone like Samantha to stick by him and help him find his way out of fear and paranoia. I am rereading this book with different insights, now that the penny has dropped!

I have always been able to understand and relate to everything Katherine Center writes. Her writing is so "open." There are some authors or novels that I will struggle to connect with because the authors hide behind their words and I can't feel or see them. When I connect with an author's words on this level, it is as if I am having a deep, meaningful and wonderfully long chat with the author, and if you haven't noticed by now, I am definitely an unapologetic Chatty Cathy!
Profile Image for Bridgett.
Author 23 books425 followers
February 29, 2020
'Never miss a chance to celebrate.'

Katherine Center's latest novel, like all her novels, is utterly delightful. While I ultimately preferred Things You Save in a Fire, I still stayed up until 3 AM finishing this story. Once it gets going, it's hard to put down.

The theme, choosing joy, really resonates. It's a lesson we should all take to heart. Told entirely from Samantha's perspective, she's a quirky character trying desperately to come to terms with several life-altering events. Enter Duncan--the one who got away several years before, who happens to be dealing with a life-altering event of his own. You're left with two semi-broken characters who eventually find completion in each other.

I love Katherine Center, but after reading three of her books in the past 12 months, I quickly realized they're a smidge formulaic. It's nothing which would prevent me from reading her future releases, but it definitely makes things predictable. As for What You Wish For, the overall plot wasn't entirely interesting to me--set almost entirely in a private elementary school, it's not particularly relatable. And if I'm being entirely honest, for the first third of the story, I intensely disliked both Samantha and Duncan...they were so over-the-top. These are the reasons I opted to rate this book 3.5.

Despite my grumbles, I still enjoyed this book...especially Chuck Norris. 🐾 And my absolute favorite part was 'high-on-drugs' Duncan. 🤣

Recommended to those who who enjoy contemporary romance novels or beachy-type reads. Pick up a copy of your own July 14, 2020.

'**Many thanks to the publisher for my review copy.
Profile Image for Corina.
759 reviews2,128 followers
September 30, 2020
Full review on my blog.

One of the things I love the most about Katherine Center is her unique way of writing characters that are always relatable, lovable, and full of joy and zeal.

I ended up reading the book in one sitting, during a time when concentrating on new books has become quite hard. What You Wish For was an easy and fast read. Thoughtful. Emotional. Enjoyable. It was a novel about loving yourself as you are, finding the joy in small things, and enjoying life to the fullest.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Find more reviews and book recommendations on my blog.
Follow me on Bookstagram.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,126 reviews30.3k followers
July 18, 2020
It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Katherine Center. I know when I pick up one of her books that I’ll put it down feeling better than when I started, and that was certainly the case with What You Wish For. Samantha is an elementary school librarian (which has to be a super fun job for a bibliophile!), living in Galveston, Texas. When her school principal is named Duncan Carpenter, Sam’s crush from years before, well, life gets very interesting for Sam, and not in the best of ways. Duncan is making changes to her beloved school.

What You Wish For is all about finding joy in the unexpected places. I was smiling so many times while I was reading, and the ending gave me the biggest smile of all. Please keep telling us these stories, Katherine Center. I never tire of reading your books filled with hope and heart!

I received a gifted copy. All opinions are my own.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,294 reviews2,963 followers
May 22, 2020
4.5 stars

Some books just hit all the right notes. I don't know if I've every used the term "swoonworthy" in one of my reviews but I'm going to bust it out now. This was one of those reading experiences in which I caught myself multiple times with a big, cheesy grin on my face because I loved the characters and their chemistry. Other than a teeny, tiny part of the ending I thought was unnecessary, this was a perfect read.

Samantha Casey is a librarian at an elementary school. When the time comes to hire a new principal, Samantha is stunned to learn her former co-worker, Duncan Carpenter, will be filling the position. She had a huge crush on Duncan at their old school but never confessed her feelings to him. Unfortunately Principal Duncan is a lot different. While he used to be a lovable goofball, he is now so obsessed with rules and regulations, it's like he's a dictator. Well, this should be an interesting school year.

If I had to pick my favorite romance novels of the last year or so, this one ranks pretty high up there on the list. Everything just seemed to work and I felt invested in the characters. However, while I liked Duncan, it would not shock me if other readers have a completely different opinion of him. To be a good read this genre for me is really dependent on how well I like the two leads and whether I buy into the fact they belong together. I couldn't help but root for Samantha and Duncan to find happiness. The author did a good job giving them interesting backstories so even if you aren't quite as enamored with them as I was, this still is a decent read.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for providing me with an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Sheyla ✎.
1,820 reviews476 followers
April 12, 2020

"choose joy on purpose"

Just what I needed during this time. A heartwarming and hopeful story! What You Wish For, It’s about conquering our fears and being accepted for we are.

Samantha Casey is the librarian of an elementary school in Galveston, TX. A few years ago, she moved to Galveston to escape an unrequited love. The man she fell for was funny, engaging, lovable but he had chosen another woman. Not that he knew how Samantha felt, so it wasn't really his fault.

Samantha is renting a garage apartment owned by Max and Babette Kempner. Max is the principal of the school she works for. During an anniversary celebration, Max unfortunately dies. The whole school and the community are distraught with grief. Then, they learn a new replacement has been hired.

The new principal is none other than Duncan Carpenter. The man Samantha left California for. Samantha is thinking of leaving because there is no way she can see him and not show her feelings but when they finally meet, Duncan is nothing like the man she remembers. Long gone is the happy personality, the vibrant ties, the carefree attitude. He is darkness when he used to be light.


I liked Samantha. She was hiding a painful personal problem but she was trying to make her life as positive as she could. She went from wearing grey to wearing all colors but grey. It was a way to remind herself of joy. Feeling joy. Experiencing joy. Sharing joy.

Then there was Duncan, I wished I had met the Duncan of years ago. The current Duncan was solemn and unemotional. Of course, as the story progresses and I learned more about Duncan, the more I started loving him. My favorite Duncan scene was when he had to be medicated. He was awesome!

I enjoyed the secondary characters, From Max who gave her so much insight to Chuck Norris who gave the book so many funny scenes. Also, Babette, Clay and Alice were all great characters.

After finishing reading What You Wish For, I want to try to find joy especially during our current situation.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by St. Martin Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

MrsLeif's Two Fangs About It | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
August 5, 2020
Life can bring you down, but you have the power to bring yourself up.

In Katherine Center's new book, What You Wish For , Samantha is a librarian at an experimental school. She loves her job—the students, her colleagues, all of it. But it took her a long time to find that place in her life.

“Dude, I’m not happy because it comes easily to me. I bite and scratch and claw my way toward happiness every day.”

When the board of the school hires a new principal, Sam is shocked to find out it’s Duncan Carpenter. She had an enormous crush on him while teaching at a different school years ago, but he never noticed her, which caused her to leave.

While no one wants a new principal, Sam feels confident because Duncan was always full of life, spontaneity, and joy when she worked with him. But that is not the Duncan that arrives at their school. This Duncan is buttoned-up, humorless, strict, and threatens to destroy everything that makes their school special.⁣

As the morale of the school and the teachers—and the future of the school itself—slips away, it’s up to Sam and her colleagues to take their school back. And at the same time, Sam must try to understand this new Duncan, and help him find his way back—without sacrificing herself or her own life in the process.

Katherine Center is such a terrific writer. Her ability to wring emotion and heart out of her characters is so amazing, and she does so again in this book. While at first I thought Sam was a little too goofy and naive, the more I read the more I understood what made her tick and how hard she fought for that goofiness.

When you read romances, you know what will happen, and ultimately, that’s one of the things I enjoy so much. Thanks to Center for bringing us another book to warm our hearts and perhaps, shed a tear or two.

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2019 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2019.html.

Check out my list of the best books of the decade at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-favorite-books-of-decade.html.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for Berit Talks Books.
2,019 reviews15.7k followers
August 18, 2020
Wonderfully whimsical! Another delightful story from Katherine Center. This was such an uplifting feel good story that just radiated joy! Samantha had a troubled past but she has now reinvented herself in Galveston as the quirky colorful school librarian. Due to tragedy the school is getting a new principal Duncan, and in a unlikely coincidence Sam has a pass connection to Duncan. BUT Duncan is no longer the fun-loving free spirit that Sam previously knew. He is now a uptight tie wearing safety obsessed downer determined to change Sam’s beloved school. What happened to the upbeat Duncan and will Sam be able to help him find joy?

There was just something so sweet and innocent about this story that really resonated with me. Terese Plummer narrates the audiobook and her upbeat narration just had me smiling throughout the entire book. She gave Sam a lovely voice that really immersed me in this tale. There were so many wonderful secondary characters in the story, my favorite being a little boy with a passion for books and a love of see life. We’d all be lucky to have a school librarian as wonderful as Sam!

This book in emojis 🏫 🏖 🐳 🦋 📚 🖍

*** Big thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
July 17, 2020
Well once again I find myself having to use my "wish I had liked it more" file. I was so looking for a book that could provide me with the old "take me away" mode so needed in the climate we find ourselves in today. Thinking if anyone could do that, make me escape to fun times it would be this author. However, sadly, as much as I wanted it to do just that, it was disappointing.

I think for me it was all those joyfully foolish moments. People acting like clowns really in their everyday lives made me question and wonder if indeed there are people who go over the top to make themselves seen? Perhaps this is not the time for clownish behavior, and of course today's unceasing wave of doom and gloom does impact how one feels about absurdity. The characters, while they did have their "joyous" moments, seemed pretty stilted, almost being forced to be outlandish, ridiculous, and in situations that seemed so implausible.

I did like the theme of keeping our children safe in a school setting and of course this is a totally relevant concept. Covering the topic of epilepsy was also something that added to the story. Unfortunately, for me it was just not enough to make the book flow the way I wanted it to. Presenting these relevant topics was something that did add a bit of seriousness to the tale of Samantha and Duncan, however, and for that I continued to read this book and not end it before its conclusion.

I so loved this author's last book The Things You Save In A Fire, where I thought her characters seemed like true to life real people. In this book, they seemed like characticures of themselves, acting more like what might have been expected of them, and not what they really wanted to do or be.

So sadly, this book was not for me. I am not giving up on this author as I have enjoyed other of her stories. I am sure many will love this tale so please do take a look at other reviews. My "wish I had liked it more" file gains another addition unfortunately.

Jan and I had the same feelings about this one.
Profile Image for Suz.
1,100 reviews565 followers
January 12, 2023
I am not even going to do a Word doc for this review, if I lose it, I lose it. An over the top read that, to me, read a little like The Gilmore Girls, when the producer changed over after a few seasons. I didn't like it as much, and I could simply tell the difference. Here, this particular story is too over board, it was quite repetetive and took too long to get there. Wherever 'there' was. It was a disappointing read for this author, as I quickly sourced everything I could on audio after loving How to Walk Away.

The audio redeemed it somewhat, as Thérèse Plummer always does a great job. She makes the funny stories even funnier, and the tone is always spot on. But in this instance, the fun tone of the narrator added to some kind of carnival theme, where I can picture the clown faces turning around, waiting for the balls to be thrown in. All a bit farcical.

I did like some of the characters, particularly young Clay, a smart book loving boy that adored the library. Samantha Casey is the librarian of an independent school, run by a tight knit board, that crumbles when their beloved patriarch died at age 60, unprepared for leaving the school in good hands.

I will always read this author, and loved all the previous reads so far, but this one, my friends, was a bit of a dud.
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