By Jessica Khoury
Available now from Razorbill (Penguin Random House)
The latest novel in the young adult genie microtrend is THE FORBIDDEN WISH by Jessica Khoury. This retelling of Aladdin casts the genie as a woman who once wreaked destruction on an entire city due to her love of a human. She's wary of interacting with them ever again, and just wants her freedom.
However, Aladdin has found her lamp and now has three wishes. He's a thief, the orphan son of revolutionaries, and his country is on the verge of revolt. A new revolutionary is on the rise, and the king is dying. Everyone fears the foul vizier taking even more control of the throne. The genie has a simple solution to get Aladdin to use all of his wishes and get his vengeance: become a prince.
While the story of Aladdin is familiar to many due to the Disney version, Khoury takes her story in a different direction. At the same time, it's not an entirely unpredictable direction. The romance between Aladdin and the genie is sweet, but I often felt I was being told more about their love for each other than feeling it myself. I wanted more of a sense of passion.
I did enjoy the variety of female characters that Khoury populated her retelling with. The princess may no longer be the love interest, but she still occupies an integral role to the story. Her friends have their own personalities in addition to help move the story along. There's also some historical queens who inspire their actions. I liked that Zahra, the genie, wasn't the only woman Khoury added to the story.
I thought THE FORBIDDEN WISH was a fun retelling that combined jinn lore with a satisfying battle for freedom. The romance was a little flat for me, but the struggle for personal, political, and other freedoms rang quite true. I admired how Zahra overcame her fears to keep doing what was right, even if it had gone wrong for her many times before. She's the kind of main character I can get behind in any story.