Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Iwishacana/Acanawishi, by Larissa Hinton


Amazon Digital Services, August 2011

I really wanted to like this book.

There's a city which is not quite of this world, called Iwishacana. In this city, wishes come true--if you want something you wish for it, and it appears. There are apparently some rules and restrictions, but it's not at all clear what they are. Eventually we learn that babies born in Iwishacana have a chip implanted in their brains, and this is key to how the wish system works. Anissa was not born in Iwishacana, but her mother was, and she has the ability to visit the city, to make wishes, etc.


Anissa's mother, Laura, is upset because Anissa is visiting Iwishicana without permission and doing other "teenage rebellion" kinds of things. When she learns that Anissa is taking art classes in Iwishicana, she grounds her. When she then discovers that Anissa has a male friend friend from Iwishacana, Florence, in her bedroom at night, she sends Anissa to Juvenile Police Camp in Iwishacana to wipe all her crimes off her record and get her on the straight and narrow.

Crimes? Well, yes. We find out about a third of the way through the book, when Anissa is already at cop camp, that someone has been using Anissa's identity to rob banks and commit other serious crimes. If she's really going to clear her name, she has to find out who. If she does find out who, the person will kill her unless she kills them first. This is part of how things are done in Iwishacana. You'd think that identity theft and using someone else's identity to commit crimes would itself be a crime, and that the correct course of action would be to report it to the police and then hire a lawyer, but no. Duel to the death, that's the ticket.

Of course, Anissa and Florence, being teenagers, act like it. Unfortunately, so to all of the putative adults who play any significant role in the story. This includes the character I dubbed Scipio, because his name is given only in Greek characters. He's the father of two of the other adults in the story, hence old enough to be Anissa's grandfather, and he's supposed to be a source of wisdom and guidance, and he still acts like a petulant teenager whenever he's thwarted in anything. Florence sometimes acts more mature--but only when the plot requires it; when it doesn't, he reverts. He's also nice or bullying depending on plot demands.

While the characterization is weak, so is the writing. Hinton consistently uses "then" when she means "than." There are sentences that don't make sense if you read them closely, that start off in one direction and wind up in another, that change tense partway through. This is by no means the worst sentence in the book:
It was a bland blue room with little decorations except for a picture of a guy and Brittnay stared directly at the camera with no smiles on their faces.
I wish I could be kinder to this book. There's an interesting story here, though parts of it need to be thought through more completely. I suspect the biggest thing this book needs is an editor. It's the downside of self-publishing; the author doesn't have to take advice or criticism from anyone they don't want to, until after they've already published their book. The same thing can happen to really popular authors published by the major publishers: Robert Heinlein, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, and other major best-selling authors have each in their time become "too big to edit." The writing of all of them suffered for it.

I hope Hinton finds an editor who'll tell her what she doesn't want to hear, and make her listen. It will be key to her growing to fulfill her potential..

Not recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the author.