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Literature / The Wish List

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The Wish List is a novel by Eoin Colfer.

The novel begins with the protagonist, Meg Finn, dying horribly in a gas explosion after a break-in goes wrong and the guy she's helping (sort of) accidentally blows them both up. However, because she tried to do good just before she died - saving the life of the old man Lowrie she was stealing from - she gets sent back to tip the scales, so to speak, one way or the other, to heaven or hell. To do this she has to help Lowrie complete the items on his "wish list": a list of things that he feels will correct the many mistakes he made in his life. In the meantime, both heaven and hell are out for her soul.


Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Step-parents: Meg's step-father really isn't a nice guy.
  • Affably Evil: Myishi generally comes off as friendly, but he's still a literally demonic Mad Scientist.
  • The Alcoholic: Nora, Lowrie's late wife was this. It ended up killing her in a way — she came home plastered one night and chugged some toilet bleach by mistake.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Lowrie throws a jar full of the ashes from Meg's mother at Franco. Since Belch was possessing him at the time, the blessed material traps Belch in Franco.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Myishi is one of Hell's top scientists and engineers, and was Japanese when he was alive.
  • Back from the Dead: Lowrie and, in a sense, Meg's stepfather.
  • Bad Boss: Beelzebub has a bad habit of vaporizing souls for no reason other than him happening to be angry or worried at the time.
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  • Barred from the Afterlife: Meg dies with a perfect balance of good and bad deeds to her name, disqualifying her from both branches of the afterlife. She finds a way back to the mortal world and decides to help an old man fulfill his life's wishes in the hopes of earning enough karma to get into heaven.
  • Batman Gambit: Meg agrees to help Lowrie "burst Ball", knowing it will harm her celestial standing, because she doesn't think he'll go through with it. And she's right.
  • Beelzebub: One of the book's main antagonists.
  • Big Bad: Satan is the ultimate mastermind of the plot, intending to collect Meg's soul and hence sending her to hell.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Meg gets to heaven and sees her mother again, but she doesn't get to stick around Lowrie like she planned. Of course, this being a universe where the afterlife is proven to exist, they'll meet up again.
  • Blue is Calm: When Meg first wakes up in the afterlife, she initially thinks she might be in a hospital because of all the blue, since hospitals use it for a calming effect.
    Her initial impression was blue. A lot of blue. Still, don't panic. You get blue in hospitals. A soothing colour.
  • Captain Ersatz: Elph is basically Foaly from Artemis Fowl.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy
  • Chekhov's Gun: The blue stones.
  • Dead to Begin With: Meg dies in chapter 1.
  • December–December Romance: At the end, it's implied that Lowrie will fulfill his promise to get together with Sissy Ward.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: Beelzebub is one of Satan's highest-ranking minions. Of course, this doesn't stop him from getting threatened and demeaned by his boss.
  • Demonic Possession: Any spirit can do this, but it costs a lot of energy.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: St Peter and Beelzebub have a hotline that goes directly to each other and has been key to preventing the End of the World several times.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Meg's refusal to let Belch kill Lowrie during the burglary is enough to drag her Karma score up to a completely balanced neutral.
    • It's implied that Beelzebub is disgusted by the surgical procedure Myishi uses to turn Belch into a soul man.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: Beelzebub tries to assuage Satan's anger at not getting Meg's soul by claiming a bus full of lawyers is due to fall into a canyon that afternoon, so they're expecting a bit of a glut. This just makes him angrier; as he points out, he doesn't need lawyers because it's not like anybody's going to sue him.
  • Fat Bastard: Franco is as fat as he is cruel.
  • Finger Poke of Doom: As things seem hopeless for team Evil, Elph manages to cause Lowrie to have a fatal heart attack by appearing on the visible spectra in front of him just before he can complete the final wish, exploiting his already failing heart.
  • Forceful Kiss: Somewhat. There was no force involved but it was a surprise to the woman that Lowrie kissed that he always regretted not doing so.
  • Freudian Excuse: Meg's childhood, in her own words, was "no great shakes", and goes some way towards explaining her mean-streak, especially in comparison to the story's antagonists.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Lowrie. Of course, considering the life he's led, he has valid reasons to be such a grouchy curmudgeon.
  • Heavenly Blue: Heaven is portrayed as being bright blue with Hell being red.
  • The Heavy: Belch and Elph.
  • Heel–Face Turn: After seeing visions of Hell while possessed by Belch, Franco resolves to turn his life around and redeem himself.
  • High Concept: A recently deceased girl cannot enter Heaven or Hell due to having a neutral soul, and decides to help an Old Man whom she helped rob when she was still living in order to get enough good karma to get into Heaven.
  • Hulk Speak: Belch is reduced to talking like this by the end, thanks to much of the human side of his mind being destroyed.
  • Insufferable Genius: Elph is smart and flaunts it.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Both main characters. Meg can be a spiteful little horror, but quickly cottons on when she has gone too far (such as when she tells Lowrie that "it's a bit late for this life" and then immediately realises the full ramifications of what she has said) or when things are deadly serious (her reaction to Belch's pitbull savaging Lowrie, and her attempts to get Belch to stop the attack; an attempt which saves Lowrie and saves herself from hell.) Lowrie, for his part, is a grumpy old man, but is still sensitive enough to take Meg's issues in life and her desire for retribution against her abusive stepfather seriously. Both characters, in this way, demonstrate hidden sensibilities even if they are outwardly not particularly nice.
  • Karma Meter: Every human being has one, and its status at the end of their life determines what happens to them after they die. Meg saving Lowrie ended up making hers completely neutral, which means she's allowed to go back and try to earn herself a ticket to Heaven.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Meg absolutely destroys her stepfather without ever laying a hand on him. And he deserved it.
  • Mad Scientist: Myishi.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Before losing a good portion of his human side, Belch refers to Elph by names like "fairy" or "pixie".
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Satan wears a pinstripe suit in his first appearance.
  • Missing Mom: Of the dead variety.
  • Near-Villain Victory: At the climax, Lowrie is all but dead with his last wish still unfulfilled, and Meg is entering the tunnel. It seems like Belch and Elph have succeeded in damning her to Hell. Then Flit reminds her of the blue stones she still has...
  • Not So Different: Lowrie find out that the bully he went to beat up in revenge is just as old, frail, and suffering from a failing organ like him. He also has grown up and regrets everything he did to Lowrie. They make up.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: The Devil forbids the use of God's name in Hell, to the point that his servant starts saying "God help..." and quickly corrects himself because somehow, the Devil always knows when someone lets the G word slip out.
  • Oh My Gods!: Since Satan's not happy about people using the Lord's name in Hell, people use his name as a substitute.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different/Our Souls Are Different
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: In the spirit, if not precisely this trope, considering both people involved are already dead. Meg Finn has earned her final reward and is on the fast track up the tunnel towards Heaven, but Belch attempts to drag her in the opposite direction, prompting (according to Saint Peter afterwards) the first instance of violence in the tunnel, accompanied by this:
    Meg: Belch, you can go to Hell! (kick to the face)
  • Race Against the Clock: Meg naturally loses life-force as time wears on, and Lowrie's heart condition begins to deteriorate as the stress of the stories events gets to him, turning the book into a race to fulfill all four wishes before the pair expire, condemning Lowrie to an unfulfilled life and Meg to the fire below.
  • Ramp Jump: Belch tries to do a variation of this minus the ramp near the end, but Reality Ensues as the fence he tried to ramp simply ends up tangled around his bike. It wasn't even necessary, given that he could have just plowed through.
  • Reformed Bully: Brendan Ball turns out to be this.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Belch had a pit bull named Raptor in life who served as this. In death, their souls merged.
  • Satan: Turns out he's personally interested in collecting Meg's soul.
  • Save the Villain: While he's not the villain, Meg's step-father is still brought back from the dead by her—and then vows to be a much better person, having caught a glimpse of Hell.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: An unintentional example. When Franco gets possessed by Belch, he gets glimpses into Belch's memories of Hell. Now that he knows eternal damnation is a possible fate for him, he resolves to change for the better.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Brendan Ball. Lowrie wants to get him back for it, but didn't consider the "grown up" part — and it turns out he's grown up as a person as well, and Lowrie changes his mind, just as Meg knew he would.
  • Shout-Out: Myishi is the name of a character.
    • Also, a possible one when describing Belch using up Franco's "life". "He was just a ghost in a shell."
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: Belch becomes more and more bestial as the book goes on. Justified, given the fact that he constantly suffers serious damage to his human side.
  • Villain Respect: Meg's not an unambiguous hero, but she gets a good deal of this from Elph. When it seems like the bad guys have won, Elph says she did a good job and expresses hope that they might work together at some point.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Franco starts out well-liked by the neighborhood, due to nobody knowing about his embarrassing habits or the way he treats his wife and stepdaughter. He loses this status after Meg tricks him into showing his friends a videotape detailing his unhealthy obsession with TV and abuse of her.


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