Olivia always lived in the shadow of her outgoing twin sister Violet — until Violet died. Now, Olivia is starting over, with a new home, a new school, parents who have become strangers to her, and a hole in her life where Violet should be. Everything changes when Olivia takes one of Violet’s dresses to be mended, and meets the mysterious seamstress Mariposa of the Mission, a.k.a. Posey. Instead of repairing Violet’s dress, Posey makes Olivia a beautiful new one. This is not just any dress; it comes with a wish, and the promise of two more dresses and two more wishes.
Olivia uses her first wish to ask for Violet back. Violet reappears, but as a ghost that only Olivia can see. Ghost-Violet guides Olivia through her adjustment to the new school, helping her shed her wallflower tendencies and make friends with the in-crowd. Soon Olivia is caught up in a love triangle when handsome Soren, who has been dating it-girl Calla, falls for Olivia instead.
The portions of the story dealing with Olivia’s family life are compelling. My heart broke for this girl whose parents utterly abdicated their responsibility in the wake of Violet’s death, and I was cheering for Olivia in the scene where her parents finally, at an inconvenient moment, decided to “parent” and she gave them a piece of her mind. The Olivia-Violet relationship is lovely; Olivia gets a chance to spend some more time with the sister who was so abruptly taken from her, and she learns that Violet wasn’t a saint but an ordinary, flawed girl. Olivia needs Violet’s help to start her on the road to finding herself, but there’s much more that Olivia will have to do on her own.
The love triangle is less interesting, at least to this reader. I think it will appeal more to the intended age group. I can’t muster up a lot of enthusiasm for the boyfriend-stealing drama, but I may just be an old curmudgeon. I loved these plots in Sweet Valley High when I was 12 or so.
There’s also something vaguely skeevy, something a little Magical Minority-ish, about a Latina seamstress who seems to exist solely to solve the problems of rich white girls (though, admittedly, the girl at the end may be poorer). We don’t get much more than glimpses of Posey, which makes her more plot device than character and adds to my discomfort with her portrayal. If she were more fleshed out, she’d probably be the most interesting character in the book.