Margo McKenna is now one of only two genies in the world, besides her crush, Oliver Parish. After making a fourth wish that saved Oliver, but killed Xavier by setting him free, Margo is struggling to adjust to life as a genie with unimaginable powers. But those powers come at a price especially when the person who is in possession of your "vessel" is the creepy boy you don't like.
When Margo first becomes a genie she reappears as Amber, a tall, curvy blonde, at a party Ryan Weiss is attending. Ryan holds Margo's vessel which is a red guitar pick. The first of his wishes is that Margo's best friend, Naomi Sloane fall in love with him. This horrifies Margo because she knows for a fact that Naomi dislikes Ryan even more than she does. Margo is forced to grant Ryan his wish and Naomi appears to be attracted to him. The next day Ryan tells Margo that he and Naomi spent the night together. He tells her that he will be more careful about his last two wishes which he wants to be really good.
Walking home Margo meets up with a girl named Gwen who is really Oliver who she learns has taken this body for his new master. Oliver fills Margo in on what happened after the fourth wish took effect - that they spent time in the gray world called the Between. Oliver tells her he will teach her about the magic so she can function as a genie. He shows her how to move through space and time quickly and how to change herself back into Margo. Oliver tells her that the magic makes her look like someone her new master will be attracted to and trust. She can go back to her original body and she will eventually learn how to stay for long periods of time in that body if she needs to.
Oliver had thought that he and Margo would run away to be together but Margo tells him taht she even though she became a genie she had no intentions of giving up her human life; she has a family and wants to go to college. Margo has trouble retaining her shape as herself and eventually has to reveal her situation to Simon Lee, the only human person who saw what happened in the Jackson High auditorium and his girlfriend, Vicky Willoughbee. She also tells Naomi what has happened to her and that she is now a genie.
When Oliver and Margo talk again Margo tells Oliver how Ryan is telling everyone what happened between him and Naomi and that he also seems quite knowledgeable about genies. Oliver tells her about an online forum on genies and when he signs onto the board using his really identity of Ciaran Kelly they find that he's been fishing for information on this forum.
The next time Ryan "calls" Margo he is with a dark-skinned man in dreadlocks whom Ryan announces will be her next master. Margo is shocked to learn that Ryan is intending upon selling her to this man, whose name is James. James backs out of the sale when Margo as Amber tells Ryan he can't sell her because she's a person.
Meanwhile Margo begins to learn about her magic and life as a genie.
The Fourth Wish is a strange novel that tries to tackle a lot of issues within the confines of a paranormal romance. In this novel, Margo is attempting to come to terms with the fallout of becoming a genie at the end of The Art of Wishing. This was an impulsive action on her part, to save Oliver's life without fully understanding the consequences of her action. The major consequence which she gradually comes to recognize in The Fourth Wish, is that she can't live her human life while being a genie because being a genie means being bound to someone else and essentially losing some of one's free will. "But I also can't do this double-life thing anymore," I continued. "I can't walk around pretending to be normal when I'm constantly making an effort to look like myself, constantly wondering if my master's going to call me, and all that." Margo feels like she is leading a double life and she struggles to maintain her identity both physically and psychologically, as a high school senior intent upon attending NYU next year. Becoming a genie begins to change her in ways that her friend Naomi recognizes as harmful. When Margo calls forth money and later when she "adjusts" herself to be smarter at math, she begins to realize that there is a level of dishonesty about these "adjustments" that she is not prepared to accept. Eventually, Margo gets around this in the end by making Oliver her master knowing that he will not use the wishes and she can carry on with her life for the most part.
Two other themes in this novel involve the body and are connected; the first involving gender identity and the second idea that a genie is simply supposed to adapt to having his or her body used. The author spends a great deal of time in the book focusing on one of the rules of a genie and how this affects them - a genie's body is made to look like someone his/her master will be attracted to and trust. This means that if a genie's gender is female and her master wants a male genie she will be male. So Margo learns that Oliver has been both male and female and in this novel he has the identity of Gwen which is confusing to Margo and leads her to question who he is, who she is and how this will affect her. Oliver eventually tells her that she will get used to the idea of being either gender but to Margo being a man when she is decidedly female feels like "wearing a costume". The idea of a genie being able to take on a different gender like changing one's hair colour came up repeatedly throughout the story weakening the storyline and stunting the overall development of the main characters. It seemed at time that the author's purpose was to make her point that gender is fluid, using Oliver, the intelligent, bisexual genie, as her mouthpiece.
While Margo seems to accept that Oliver can take on different genders, she has more trouble accepting his promiscuous past as either a male or female and the apparent loss of free will genies encountered with various masters, especially when it led to manipulation and sexual assault. Oliver seemed to suggest that genies simply had to accept this as part of their fate and that Margo needed to learn how to adjust herself to cope instead of actively trying to stop the abuse. This comes up when Ryan Weiss decides to turn a wish against Margo and force her to sleep with him. When she tells Oliver about what happened he seems to imply that she can control this by manipulating the other person rather than getting them to actually stop their behaviour.
By the end of the novel, Margo begins to realize that being a genie is not really all it's made out to be. She's followed Oliver into his world, only to realize that give up one's free will can lead to manipulation and abuse.
Overall The Fourth Wish will appeal to those who enjoy fantasy and paranormal but they may find there is not enough substance to hold their interest through the middle of the novel. Readers will find themselves questioning the trade-off Margo made for love.
The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar
New York: Kathy Dawson Books 2014