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Literature / The Wish

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The Wish is a 2000 children's novel by Gail Carson Levine.

Wilma Sturtz is an unpopular and friendless girl who is either mocked or ignored by all her classmates. One day, her entire life changes after she meets an old lady who grants her one wish: being the most popular girl at Claverford (her middle school). Suddenly Wilma is befriended by a group of popular girls, finds a boyfriend, and is loved by everyone at school.

But her new "popularity" only applies to Claverford students, and Wilma starts to fear that her wish will expire the day she graduates from middle school...


  • Academic Alpha Bitch: Suzanne, the popularity-seeker who takes pleasure in bullying the unpopular kids, is apparently one of the "brains" who only attends Claverford because she's a very smart student, just like Wilma. Wilma, however, doesn't consider her smart.
  • Alpha Bitch:
    • Averted with the three popular girs Ardis, Nina, and BeeBee. Even the meanest of the three, Nina, is a Lovable Alpha Bitch. Also averted with Wilma herself, who stays true to herself after she becomes popular, and even stands up for unpopular students like Daphne. No Mean Girls plot here.
    • Zig-zagged with Suzanne. She is a straight-up bully, but not necessarily popular. She just likes to hang out with popular people at school but it's implied that she's disliked even in her circle. In fact, the popular girls tolerate her but don't want to hang out with her outside of school.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Wilma is given a wish and asks to be the most popular student at her middle school, Claverford... only to discover it only affects students of Claverford. The wish has no effect on those who do not attend Claverford, and it will expire as soon as she graduates.
  • Big Ol' Unibrow: Jared has one. It's the reason why Wilma finds him unattractive at first. She changes her mind after they start dating.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Even though the wish does end, Wilma keeps the friends that she actually likes, and Jared as well. Ardis, Nina and BeeBee forgive her after being initially angry. Jared, on hearing about the old lady, jokingly says she ought to have wished for a pet porpoise or elephant. The old lady in question laughs when Wilma offers to do more good things for a wish and tells her that it's not how magic works when you know you'll get rewarded for it, but that she is a fine girl who will grow up to be a finer person. Wilma decides to pass the wish on to someone else by advising a nearby boy to do a good deed for the old lady.
  • Class Princess:
    • Ardis, a rich, smart, beautiful, and popular Extracurricular Enthusiast, who is also loved for her kind and friendly personality. The trope is deconstructed, as she's eventually revealed to be a realistically flawed person with her own weaknesses, and also used to be unpopular in her old school. She's still one of the nicest characters in the book.
    • Wilma, after she becomes popular. While she's excited to hang out with the cool kids, she's also willing to help the unpopular Daphne to make friends, and is never mean to anyone. She even tries to be polite to Suzanne, the opportunistic girl who used to bully her, and the only time she insulted Suzanne was in order to defend Daphne.
  • Cool Kid-and-Loser Friendship:
    • After Wilma becomes popular, she befriends the unpopular Daphne and starts dating the unpopular Jared. She wasn't interested in befriending them at first, but they turn out to be likable people.
    • Wilma sees herself as the loser when she hangs out with Ardis, Nina, and BeeBee, because she knows to be popular only because of the wish and this makes her easily embarrassed in front of the cool girls. That said, Wilma remains true to herself.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: When Wilma's wish wears off, her new friends are understandably angry about the fact that they were forced to like her. She tries desperately to explain how much their friendship means to her by saying that if she met the old lady again, she'd wish for their friendship instead of popularity—and Ardis points out wishing for their friendship would also force them to like her. But Ardis also admits that if not for the wish, none of the girls would have realized that Wilma is actually a cool person.
  • Dude Magnet: One of the effects of Wilma's wish. Most boys at school ask her to the dance, including the boyfriends of her new popular friends.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Wilma finds her name embarrassing. Also, BeeBee's real name is Bernice Beryl but she never tells anyone about it.
  • Evil Counterpart: Suzanne to Wilma. Both desperately want to be popular and hang out with the school's Girl Posse. Unlike Suzanne, Wilma is never mean to the unpopular students, never badmouths people behind their back, and genuinely tries to be a true friend.
  • Hate Sink: Suzanne is a nasty Jerkass who sucks up to the popular kids, bullies the unpopular ones, and badmouths even her "friends" behind their back. Wilma finds her even more hateable as a friend than as an enemy.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Wilma's dog, Reggie, was her only friend before the wish.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: After spending most of her school years being ignored, Wilma wants to keep her new popularity at any cost.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation:
    • Played straight with Daphne, who is the smartest and most unpopular girl in the school.
    • Wilma is also very smart, but her unpopularity is mostly due to being humiliated in front of the entire school rather than her intelligence.
    • Averted with Ardis, who is known for being an intelligent Extracurricular Enthusiast (although, despite her great reputation, she's actually Book Dumb, as Wilma finds out) and is also extremely popular.
  • Literal Genie: The "old lady." Wilma wishes to be the most popular at her school, and the wish is granted. Eventually she realizes that this means the wish will end at her graduation from that school, less than a month away. (And therefore, that it would have been better to take the original wish offered to her: to be popular, period. Or, as Jared jokingly points out, to ask for a pet porpoise or elephant.)
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch:
    • Nina is popular, dominant, and bitchy, but she's of the Jerk with a Heart of Gold type.
    • BeeBee has shades of this. Even her early mistreatment of the unpopular Wilma was only out of peer pressure, but she's mostly likable. She can also qualify as an Innocent Beta Bitch, since she's not as famous as Ardis and not as dominant as Nina, despite still being very popular.
  • Motor Mouth: Stephanie apparently speaks very quickly, but without realizing it.
  • Nice Girl: The old lady that grants Wilma's wish is this. She's apologetic about ending the spell on graduation night and later advises Wilma that sometimes when you get exactly what you want, you have regrets about it. Wilma wonders briefly if the old lady would turn her into a toad for pushing the issue or asking how to get more wishes, but dismisses the thought.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: The three popular girls. Ardis is a Nice Girl who was friendly to Wilma even before the wish, Nina is harsh and rude even to her friends (although she has a nice side), and BeeBee is a very good friend, but at the beginning of the book she was quite shallow (she gets better).
  • Scholarship Student: Discussed. Wilma explains near the beginning of the book that everyone at Claverford is either smart and got a scholarship or has rich parents, and that everyone knows who is a "Brain" and who is a "Wallet" (though it doesn't determine their popularity).
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Wilma used to have a crush on the popular Carlos. Once she becomes popular too, she realizes that Carlos is a jerk and actually prefers Jared, an unpopular nice guy.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: The wish made Wilma universally adored by everyone, so Wilma is not happy when Stephanie, an old friend of BeeBee's and Nina's, still doesn't like her. It turns out to be a case of Exact Words as Wilma's wish was "being the most popular girl at Claverford," and Stephanie is from another school. Stephanie still sees Wilma as the same person as before (not hateable but still nothing special) and doesn't understand what's so great about her.