The ever-lovely and oh-so-talented Carollyn Olson actually introduced me to A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes back in November, and her recommendation carries a lot of weight with me. I can't explain why it took me so long to get around to reading it, but I am pleased to say that Dani Mitchell's transgender fantasy is everything Carollyn promised . . . and just a bit more.
First of all, I love how the narrative was structured. We actually open with a brief, somewhat ominous snippet of the Greg's thoughts as he awakens from surgery. From there, the story leaps back in time to the beginning of his journey, but Mitchell continues to scatter those mysterious surgical scenes throughout the novel. That structure adds a whole other dimension of anticipation to the story, leaving us to wonder precisely why he's been hospitalized. Early on, the fact that his father is an abusive alcoholic leads one to wonder whether it will be a beating that will send Greg to the hospital, but little hints and clues give rise to even stranger worries later on, before ultimately revealing the truth.
I don't want to spoil any of the magic here, so I'm going limit myself to talking about the initial set-up. When we first meet Greg, we discover that he is a closet crossdresser. It's nothing sexual or fetishistic for him, just a means of finding comfort and de-stressing in an abusive home. He is smaller than most of the boys, leading him to be bullied, but he has some good friends and dreams of becoming a mechanic. Eventually, he meets Kris, a beautiful young lesbian who becomes his best friend. Just when you think you know where the story is going, however, Kris disappears under suspicious circumstances, and Greg's life goes on without her for a couple of years.
Not long after Greg's dad discovers him dressed, and sets about destroying all his clothes and shoes, Kris suddenly reappears. She seems to have one of those too-good-to-be-true story of a rich relative who took her in after her parents threw her out for being a lesbian, and it's at this point that the surgery snippets get a little more weird, with talk of tattoos and making clients very happy. Greg does comes out to Kris as transsexual, but almost immediately there are some off hand comments from her aunt that add even more mystery to the situation, especially in light of how the surgical scenes are progressing.
That's all I will say on that, however, as discovering how (and why) the story develops should be up to the reader. It's a carefully structured story that's full of drama, sorrow, and moments of indescribable happiness. Greg and Kris are such a perfect couple, you can't help but want them to have the biggest, best, most happily-ever-after in history. There is such joy in their scenes together, such unrestrained happiness, that you can't help but fall in love with them. As for the other characters, Greg's dad is pretty much the archetype of a drunken bully; his mother is a surprisingly strong character, especially with her growth in the latter half of the book; while Jennifer, Kris' aunt, is more of a plot device than a fully-fleshed character, but you'll wish you had an aunt like that as well.
A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes has its moments of darkness and sorrow, and does get quite ominous in parts, but you will come away from it with a smile on your face and a sweet little pitter-patter in your heart.