M for Mixtape, mystery and mistakes in Wish You Were Here, by Barbara Shoup (book review)

book cover of Wish You Were Here by Barbara Shoup published by FluxBest high school pal.
A great girlfriend.
A family that gets along.
Quit dreaming, Jackson!

Senior year of high school is rarely all sunshine and cupcakes for folks, but Jax really does have some odd and difficult things to work through before he graduates in 1994.

His rock band roadie dad is dating a vegetarian aerobics instructor, straight-arrow MBA Ted has asked Jackson if he’s okay with him marrying Mom, and Brady is still gone.

Is his life a mixtape where nothing can change or is it on the shuffle setting, like Ted’s state-of-the-art CD player?

It’s National Library Week, so head over to your  local library and look for this 2008 re-release of Shoup’s award-winning classic.

Book info: Wish You Were Here / Barbara Shoup. Flux, 2008.   [author site]  [publisher site]

My recommendation: Jackson and his best friend are moving into their own apartment for their senior year of high school! Until Brady runs away the weekend before school begins… Now Jax has to cope with everything by himself: his mom remarrying, his dad going into the hospital, girl-trouble. Maybe he can follow the postcards and bring Brady back.

If he must have a stepdad, Ted is better than most, and now only-child Jax will have part-time little sisters. But a new house, knowing that Mom and Dad will never get together again, no Brady to escape with… and to top it off, the three stepsiblings will be going with Mom and Ted on their honeymoon trip to the tropics over Christmas Break!

At least he got to meet Amanda at the beach – funny, smart, likes Kristin and Amy, really likes Jax. They’ll just have to write letters until graduation (Class of ’94 forever) since they live so far apart. One postcard from Brady, but no real news.

Odd that Jax gets tied up with stoner Steph, Brady’s ex, when he gets back from the island. He doesn’t love her, she doesn’t love him, but it just happens. Keeps him a little bit sane when Dad is injured during a rock concert (yep, he’s a roadie) and Jax winds up staying at his house to help him recover. Another postcard from Brady, less informative than the first.

A road trip to Graceland, spring break in Florida with his classmates…life for Jax is like the random feature on the CD player in Ted’s new van – you never know what song will play next, and the surprise isn’t always a pleasant one.

How does this being a big brother thing work?
Can he find Brady before senior year is over?
Why can’t he figure out what comes after all this drama?

Published in 1994 and named to the American Library Association’s 1995 Best Books for Young Adults list, Wish You Were Here  has been re-issued by Flux Books. Jackson’s musings still ring true, as he deals with divorce, weird relatives, the end of school, and the disappearance of his best friend.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) I won this review copy in the Authors for Henryville auction. Cover image courtesy of the publisher.

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