Leaving Wishville (2020) by Mel Torrefranca is a remarkable debut by the author who began writing the novel for young adults as a high school freshman.
By seventeen years old, Mel Torrefranca completed and published her story about a group of teens struggling through the eighth grade in a fantastical-coastal city known as Wishville, which is isolated from the rest of the world.
Mel has remained diligent in a writing career that has spanned more than a decade while rising to fame and stardom as a YouTube Vlogger. One of her most popular and captivating videos (with over 1.6 million views) is when she strictly followed the daily routine of Haruki Murakami for one week, which included running ten miles per day (Murakami is a marathon runner), no small feat.
She also has a fantastic “Dark Audio Drama” on YouTube called the “Nightshade Academy.”
Organization of Leaving Wishville
Part I: Nina (pgs 1-98), Chapters 1-11
Part II: Wishville (pgs 99-176), Chapters 12-23
Part III: Home (pgs 177-279), Chapters 24-37
The Leaving Wishville Story
Leaving Wishville could easily be placed into either one of the categories of Fantasy or Science Fiction. The story has the tone, feeling, and fantastical-mysterious qualities of one of Madeleine L’Engle’s “science fantasy” books A Wrinkle in Time (1962), A Wind in the Door (1973), and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978).
The focus of the story is Benji Marino, who at fourteen is attending Wishville Junior High when he attempts to escape the mysterious city of Wishville just as his father, Scott, had done years ago during the “ten-day experiment” (p 145).
The Wishville populous, however, believes, that anyone who leaves Wishville is going to die a mortal death, which it is this concrete and absolute fear — a fear that is inherent internally, externally, individually, and collectively — a fear that Benji must overcome if he wishes to find peace, happiness, and perhaps his father once again.
When one of Benji’s friends, Nina Koi, predicts her own death and then leaves Benji a red envelope predicting Benji’s own death on May 23 at 11:59 pm (pgs 98, 105), Benji makes the ultimate choice to do two final things before his death: 1) reunite his estranged friends; 2) finally leave Wishville, no matter the cost.
The world building is legit (loved how Nina’s brother, James Koi, clings to his favorite book Sharpner’s Peak, p 69), and the reader begins investing in the mysteries surrounding this group of teens who meet at a secret location in the forest called Blueberry: Did Nina really die? Did Nina leave Wishville? Was Nina actually predicting when Benji would leave Wishville and not when he would die (as he automatically assumes).
Because when an individual leaves Wishville, that individual is systematically considered dead and never spoken about again. The estranged individual is wiped from the history of Wishville forever, hinting at the dangers of a cult-like community. But what teenager does not sit and dream about leaving his/her hometown to explore the unknown world outside those borders which seem so firm and resolute and unconquerable?
The emotions, too, are legit for these young adult characters, who struggle with school, friends, family, and childhood crushes. Benji has loved Audrey since the fourth grade and before he decides to leave Wishville he gains courage and tells her how he feels, but as this book does so very well, the illusion and the reality are two very different things which often become interchangeable and imperceptible.
“Five years. He had spent the last five years waiting for Audrey’s smile. The smile that lit the classroom, filled it with colors he could hardly imagine. There was no denying the fact that she was beautiful. Everyone could see that. But had he really known her?
“Five years. Five years of intoxication, that’s what it was. He wasn’t thinking of Audrey when he tried to leave earlier this month. He wasn’t thinking of her when he imagined his future. She brought a dash of color to a town as desaturated as Wishville, and Benji clung to all the colors he knew to survive. Every speck of it he gripped with his soul. But now that he had finally said it, now that the words came loose, these bottled feelings washed away…
“The truth was, he never liked Audrey…
“He liked the colors she showed. The colors gave him hope that someday, life could change. She was a distraction from searching for the truth, searching for the true colors, the permanent ones” (pgs 123-124).
Even the side characters, like James Koi, appear real and alive on the page as they too struggle with the oppressive-gray city of Wishville seemingly surrounded on one side by the endless ocean and on the other a forest leading to a dark and deadly void. After losing his beloved sister, James mourns on the beach questioning his own existence, his own substance of self-worth.
“The waves squirted mists across his face, and he welcomed them. His fingers gripped to a random page. With a slow, painful drag of his wrist, he ripped it from the spine… With each paper he let go, a part of himself deteriorated. He developed a hunger for the ocean to devour every part of himself he hated. Every last word that made him the boy he despised… The pages of his prized book were gone. All that was left was an unrecognizable book cover with a dented cover. He ran his hands along the cover one last time, ripped it in half by the spine, and chucked it into the water as if tossing bread at seagulls. He watched a piece of the cover float across a peaceful patch before the water drew it into discourse. The cover tossed around, trying to stay afloat, trying to breathe, but was eventually drowned by the current, carried away forever. Something inside him had shifted. Changed, even” (p 129).
The author does an incredible job to further add a deeper psychological layer to the protagonist Benji Marino, who begins to question in his own sanity as his mother, Rebecca, takes him to see Dr. Atkins, a child therapist who had also attended to Nina Koi before the young girl’s death.
“Benji thought on that for a little. For some time. A long time. He closed his eyes. Messed with his fingers. Bit his tongue. In the end, he found himself nodding. I don’t want to believe Nina had something wrong with her… His face boiled. He wasn’t sure where the anger came from, but it did, and he wished to scream. Am I going crazy like Nina? He grabbed his head in different places, hoping he could reach a conclusion. Or am I the only person in this town who’s actually sane” (p 172).
The intensity of the characters and their plights with one another and with the city itself propel the story into an inevitable ending which keeps the reader on the edge, wondering if anything is as real as it seems or is there something beyond the borders of Wishville.
But there’s no denying the bonds these friends have for one another. Especially Samantha Perkins, daughter to the town’s mayor. Samantha chooses to do everything to help Benji leave Wishville which comes at a high price. With her father, Mayor Arthur Perkins, fighting to keep Benji inside Wishville for the greater sake of the community, Samantha (who also goes by Sam) must make a choice: one of family or one of friendship.
On Candy Road, leading out of Wishville into the great unknown, Mayor Perkins holds a gun to Benji preventing the young boy from crossing a bridge which is the final act of defiance to a whole town and culture of communalism. Sam appears out of the rain to help Benji escape.
“Sam focused on her sneakers. ‘Let him go.’ Her eyes wandered to the hundreds of feet below, and she lost the little coordination she had in her legs. She leaned to the side, gathering her balance…
“Mayor Perkins’ face reddened. He brought the gun above his head and hurled it into the sea below… Sam grinned at Benji, satisfied with her success, but he wasn’t able to smile back. As she leaned forward to step off, the rain slipped its way under her shoes. Her arms swerved to gather balance once more, but by the time Benji had taken a single step, she had already disappeared” (p 242).
If you wish to know what happens next or whether or not Benji does leave Wishville in the end, you’ll just have to read the book.
Publishing House: https://lostislandpress.com
The American novelist CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, & he’s a been member of the Hemingway Society, Americans for the Arts, PEN America, Club Med, & the Royal Society of Literature. He’s also a been Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) based in London. He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), The Mystic’s Smile ~ A Play in 3 Acts (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), Little Hometown, America (2020); A Time to Forget in East Berlin (2022), and Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being (2023).
He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
“Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being is a captivating new dystopian science fiction novel by CG Fewston, an author already making a name for himself with his thought-provoking work. Set in the year 2183, Conquergood is set in a world where one company, Korporation, reigns supreme and has obtained world peace, through oppression... The world-building in the novel is remarkable. Fewston has created a believable and authentic post-apocalyptic society with technological wonders and thought-provoking societal issues. The relevance of the themes to the state of the world today adds an extra wrinkle and makes the story even more compelling.”
“A spellbinding tale of love and espionage set under the looming shadow of the Berlin Wall in 1975… A mesmerising read full of charged eroticism.”
“An engrossing story of clandestine espionage… a testament to the lifestyle encountered in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War.”
“There is no better way for readers interested in Germany’s history and the dilemma and cultures of the two Berlins to absorb this information than in a novel such as this, which captures the microcosm of two individuals’ love, relationship, and options and expands them against the blossoming dilemmas of a nation divided.”
~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“A Time to Forget in East Berlin is a dream-like interlude of love and passion in the paranoid and violent life of a Cold War spy. The meticulous research is evident on every page, and Fewston’s elegant prose, reminiscent of novels from a bygone era, enhances the sensation that this is a book firmly rooted in another time.”
“Vivid, nuanced, and poetic…” “Fewston avoids familiar plot elements of espionage fiction, and he is excellent when it comes to emotional precision and form while crafting his varied cast of characters.” “There’s a lot to absorb in this book of hefty psychological and philosophical observations and insights, but the reader who stays committed will be greatly rewarded.”
GOLD Winner in the 2020 Human Relations Indie Book Awards for Contemporary Realistic Fiction
FINALIST in the SOUTHWEST REGIONAL FICTION category of the 14th Annual National Indie Excellence 2020 Awards (NIEA)
“Fewston employs a literary device called a ‘frame narrative’ which may be less familiar to some, but allows for a picture-in-picture result (to use a photographic term). Snapshots of stories appear as parts of other stories, with the introductory story serving as a backdrop for a series of shorter stories that lead readers into each, dovetailing and connecting in intricate ways.”
“The American novelist CG FEWSTON tells a satisfying tale, bolstered by psychology and far-ranging philosophy, calling upon Joseph Campbell, J. D. Salinger, the King James Bible, and Othello.”
“In this way, the author lends intellectual heft to a family story, exploring the ‘purity’ of art, the ‘corrupting’ influences of publishing, the solitary artist, and the messy interconnectedness of human relationships.”
“Fewston’s lyrical, nostalgia-steeped story is told from the perspective of a 40-year-old man gazing back on events from his 1980s Texas childhood…. the narrator movingly conveys and interprets the greater meanings behind childhood memories.”
“The novel’s focus on formative childhood moments is familiar… the narrator’s lived experiences come across as wholly personal, deeply felt, and visceral.”
American Novelist CG FEWSTON
This is my good friend, Nicolasa (Nico) Murillo, CRC, who is a professional chef & a wellness mentor. I’ve known her since childhood & I’m honored to share her story with you. In life, we all have ups & downs, some far more extreme than others. Much like in Canada, in America, the legalization of marijuana has become a national movement, which includes safe & legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic use & research for all.
“This is a wellness movement,” Nico explains. The wellness movement is focused on three specific areas: information, encouragement, & accountability.
In these stressful & unprecedented times, it makes good sense to promote & encourage the state or condition of being in good physical & mental health.
The mission of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic use and research.
TEXANS FOR SAFE ACCESS ~ share the mission of their national organization, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic use and research, for all Texans.
Stay safe & stay happy. God bless.
Nico Murillo Bio ~ Americans & Texans for Safe Access ~ Medical Cannabis