Maureen McCarthy

Allen & Unwin (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-74175-857-3

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Ruth Craze’s life has gone downhill since the death of her beloved aunt Mary Ellen, and the loss of the stuffed toy rat Mary Ellen had given her. Ruth’s friends have deserted her, her family frustrates and annoys her, and she just doesn’t feel like she fits in. Then she and a boy from her school go on a little road trip to track down Rodney the rat and Ruth’s view on her life changes forever.

McCarthy writes a very easy read – the character of Ruth is vividly drawn and I enjoyed the merging of reality with fantasy. In fact, the fantastical elements in this story are so subtly written that it barely feels like a fantasy novel, although it definitely is! McCarthy’s style is simple and spare and wholly readable.

If I have one complaint, it is that the age range of the book doesn’t quite work for me. Ruth is not quite twelve years old, yet I found myself reading her as at least thirteen or fourteen, and I think I would have enjoyed the story even more if this reading were accurate. I could see no reason for McCarthy making her only eleven – for me, it muddies the water between a children’s novel (which this doesn’t seem like – it’s too big for one!) and a young adult book (which it could easily be, if at the younger end of the range).

Having said that, it’s a small criticism, and one that not all readers will agree with anyway. In all, Careful What You Wish For is a great read for a strong 11+ reader.