Nicole Melanson ~
In the age of selfies and personal branding on social media, Lia Weston’s You Wish is a timely read that explores what happens when the lines between fantasy and reality blur beyond recognition.
Tom Lash is an emotionally adrift artist gifted with the ability to perceive gaps in other people’s lives and the technological skills to fill them. His company, Ignis Fatuus AKA IF, provides a boutique Photoshopping-on-steroids service to clients keen to make their lives look better on paper. What starts as a bit of a joke enterprise — editing out former spouses and replacing them with celebrities or placing ordinary people in extraordinary situations — takes a sadder turn as Tom’s clientele expands to include people looking to create false memories eg. parents imagining milestones for children long since deceased.
Tom begins to assume the burden of his clients and questions whether what he’s offering them is actually healthy or harmful in the long run. He also worries that his images will hurt people other than the clients commissioning them — for example, the children deemed “failures” by their parents, who Photoshop them winning undeserved accolades. Tom is, perhaps, particularly sensitive to this conundrum as he feels disapproval from friends and family dissatisfied with his decision to abandon more “legitimate” artistic endeavours in favour of what they consider shadier pursuits.
You Wish poses lots of ethical dilemmas as Tom finds himself increasingly entangled in his clients’ lives and starts to grasp the far-reaching consequences of his curation and resultant manipulation. He also confronts how he’s become a victim to his own creations as fantasies about a woman he knows only from stock images ensnare him at the expense of real-life romance.
Inevitably, IF encounters legal dramas, and Tom’s sense of purpose begins to unravel. This raises issues about whether or not ethics are only relevant within the context of the law, or if there is a higher moral code we should all adhere to irrespective of criminality.
The darkness of this theme is carefully balanced with satire and humour. Weston has given Tom an incredible eye for detail. Like a superhero learning to control his powers, Tom struggles to know when to show off his observational skills and when to keep his mouth shut, entertaining and offending in equal measure. He is surrounded by an eclectic circle of fellow artists, family, and friends, but Tom’s true co-stars are his co-workers, a motley group of talented but complicated individuals.
Weston has a knack for vivid characterization using minimal physical description. Her characters are unique yet easily identifiable. Her insights are razor-sharp and her language controlled. A different writer might have taken greater liberties with her sense of humour and turned You Wish into a very successful rom-com, but Weston has opted for a more genre-defying approach.
Snappy, witty, and wry, You Wish is a beach read for the urban crowd. Although not as feel-good or laugh-out-loud funny as the series Offspring, this book should appeal to readers with the same cosmopolitan sensibilities and enthusiasm for offbeat drama, whilst fans of The Office will enjoy a fresh take on how the people you work with can make life either a pleasure or a misery.
You Wish can be purchased from all great Australian book shops and is also available from Pan Macmillan Australia here.