Book club questions for What You Wish For by Katherine Center takes an in-depth look at all the key plot points in this moving novel. There will be spoilers so for more context about the story, check out my spoiler-free review.
Oh wow, this story really got to me in parts. As I talked about in my review, I didn’t love when Duncan came onto the scene—I thought his attitude was too much. Now when we find out (SPOILER ALERT) that he was in a school shooting it was equal parts horrifying and also felt quite realistic. It made sense why he was so insistent on security for the school. I just thought his flippant and somewhat disrespect at the beginning was a bit much even with learning about his past. I’m glad Katherine eased up that side of him when he got more involved with Sam.
Coupled that with Sam’s epilepsy and learning why her father left the family—this one covers many heavy topics. And I believe Katherine’s choice to cover serious events makes her stories stand out from others.
Overall, I did enjoy this one and found myself getting choked up a couple times, which rarely happens with novels! At least none as of late.
Samantha Casey is a school librarian who loves her job, the kids, and her school family with passion and joy for living. But she wasn’t always that way.
Duncan Carpenter is the new school principal who lives by rules and regulations, guided by the knowledge that bad things can happen. But he wasn’t always that way.
And Sam knows it. Because she knew him before―at another school, in a different life. Back then, she loved him―but she was invisible. To him. To everyone. Even to herself. She escaped to a new school, a new job, a new chance at living. But when Duncan, of all people, gets hired as the new principal there, it feels like the best thing that could possibly happen to the school―and the worst thing that could possibly happen to Sam. Until the opposite turns out to be true. The lovable Duncan she’d known is now a suit-and-tie wearing, rule-enforcing tough guy so hell-bent on protecting the school that he’s willing to destroy it.
As the school community spirals into chaos, and danger from all corners looms large, Sam and Duncan must find their way to who they really are, what it means to be brave, and how to take a chance on love―which is the riskiest move of all.
Book Club Questions for What You Wish For
- The story opens up with a party that’s gone tragic—Max, the beloved founder of the Kempner School died. Let’s talk about the beginning.
- Sam comes from a broken family—her mother died when she was young and she has no relationship with her father. Why do you think Galveston, TX became the right place for her?
- Max and Babette become like surrogate parents to Sam. But their daughter Tina does not hide her disdain for Sam. What do you think was behind Tina’s anger toward Sam?
- We learn that Sam was in California prior to moving to Texas. But she moved because she couldn’t handle working with her crush, Duncan, every day. When it talked about Sam having a past with Duncan, did you think it was interesting it was just a crush? Or did you expect them to have had more of a relationship?
- What was your initial thoughts about Duncan when he came in very militant about wanting to change the school’s security?
- When it seems like Duncan doesn’t remember Sam, she decides not to mention their shared past at the beginning. How would you have handled it if you were Sam?
- Sam and Duncan have an icy relationship to begin with. What was some of the key events that changed this relationship?
- Let’s talk about the night that Sam took care of Duncan and he left his guard down (due to meds).
- What did you think when you found out that Duncan had been in a school shooting? Did you understand why he was so strict in the beginning?
- Sam suffers from epilepsy. When she was a child, she heard her father say that Sam’s condition ruined their marriage. Let’s talk about the long-term impact of hearing this.
- In what ways are Sam and Duncan similar? What did you think about their love story overall?
- How does the title relate to the subject matter of this story?
- If they made a movie or TV version of this story, who would you cast in the main roles?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for What You Wish For! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner is a lovely novel about a group of wounded people coming together in a shared love of fiction. While it’s completely a different era from What You Wish For, it does share a similar theme.
Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people―a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others―could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.
A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver is such an impactful read about coming to terms with grief.
Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade and Lydia thought their love was indestructible. But she was wrong. On Lydia’s twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.
So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants is to hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life—and perhaps even love—again.
But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.
Lydia is pulled again and again through the doorway to her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.