From Katherine Center, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel full of heart and hope.Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.

When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.






4,5 it won’t be my last by this author’s stars!

“You’ll never fix all your problems.” “Well, that’s encouraging.” “The point is to be happy anyway. As often as you can.”


This was my first book by Katherine Center and I really want to thank St Martin’s Press for gifting me this copy. It had no influence on me reviewing that book but played a major role on me having one of the most wonderful times reading a book!

I wanted to try one of Katherine Center’s books since I read raving reviews months ago for Things You’d Save in a Fire.

Every reader was so enthusiastic that I was intrigued. The moment I read the blurb for What You Wish For, I knew that I wanted to try it.

First thing: Katherine’s penmanship is flawless. She made me fall into her story from the first sentences, walking in Sam’s shoes with ease and falling for that school filled with amazing and dedicated teachers. I really relished in witnessing this story unfold, also outraged at what Duncan’s did but later, going all emotional when some veil on his and Sam’s past trauma were lifted.

I am a character driven kind of reader and the author built amazing characters I would have loved to befriend.

You will have the characters you’ll despise like Kent Bukley.

He was the chairman of the school’s board and once the school’s founder and director, Max, died het jumped on the occasion to put his man at the head of the school. The one that would “set things right” as in: more discipline, more security, less poetry and much less freedom and joy!

“So while Max dying was a crushing loss for everybody else, for Kent Buckley it was—as he’d kind of confessed in the meeting today . . . an opportunity.”

Of course, opposed to Kent Bukley, you have all the teachers and our heroine: Samantha.


Samantha was a breeze of fresh air. She had my dream work: she was a librarian! I loved how Katherine Center made her library a dream for kids and readers. With staircase painted like books, with nests to read, filled with joy!

Samantha had a “condition” that I won’t speak about here as I don’t wat to spoil your fun. But what I loved about her is that she chose to overcome her fear. She chose to be happy, joyful.

And she made a 180° transformation going for a pink bang, polka dots skirts, plateau shoes and bright colors! She is a truly courageous and warm person.

And when Duncan will arrive in her school, dead set on making it a high security school, choosing grey for the walls and covering gorgeous butterfly murals, Samantha will lead the teachers and go to war with Duncan!


That story was filled with humor and comic scenes. I laughed when Sam hid in the grocery store, crouching low behind her cart as she was so not prepared to meet Duncan!

I smiled at all of Alice’s T shirts.  She is the math teacher and Samantha’s best friend, always having math quotes and jokes on her T shirts!

But the humor was used to alleviate some very moving scenes, some topics like PTSD and illness that can really poison your life and engulf you in dark clouds if you don’t react.

There is lots of wisdom here. Thoughts about how you don’t choose some things in your life but that you choose how you react to these.

“Faced with darkness, I had chosen flowers. And polka dots. And light.”


Duncan was the character that you’ll love at first when Samantha will talk about how he was in her old school then you’ll be horrified by what he’ll do. I too wanted to grab a pitch fork and join the teacher’s mob! But then, he’ll change and you’ll also learn what happened to change him so deeply. That’s when you’ll understand. That’s when you’ll want to help him.


Going from laughter to outrage all while breezing through angst and sadness, this book was a roller coaster of emotion. I am amazed at how Katherine Center transitioned my mood from one extreme to the other without overdoing anything! Granted, the one thing that prevented me from giving five stars was the ending a little bit too “overplayed” if I may say so. But that read remains one of the best woman fiction that I have read in recent years.

One final favorite quote here before I let you go:

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


Have you read that book or any book by that author?


Thanks for reading!



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  1. Ok, this, again, isn’t usually the kind of read I enjoy but I’m intrigued! First, it takes place in Galveston, my sister’s backyard! And then I read that last quote and it is so me…it’s actually eerie, LOL! Fab review!

  2. Character-driven and humorous…I’m excited to give this one a read. Love those quotes you picked from it. Makes me want to read it even more. 😀

  3. Yours is the first review I’ve seen for this book. I’m excited to read it after loving her last book so much. It sounds like this one is just as good too. 🙂

  4. I have read three of Center’s books, and each one was a treat. I especially love riding her emotional roller coasters, because they never disappoint. The humor is always doled out in the right amounts at the right time too. So happy to hear you enjoyed this book.

  5. I’ve seen a lot of great reviews for Things You Save in a Fire but not too many for this one so far. Samantha sounds like such a wonderful character – one that it’s easy to love and pull for.

  6. Wonderful review Sophie, but you must try How to Walk Away – I feel it’s her best book yet!