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Book Review

The Wish List by Eoin Colfer has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Fourteen-year-old Meg Finn has gotten in some trouble since her mother was hit by a taxi and killed. Meg’s abusive stepfather, Franco, has made her life difficult. She helps a teen thug named Belch rob the home of an old man named Lowrie. Lowrie catches them in the act and holds a shotgun on them.

Belch commands his pit bull, Raptor, to latch on to Lowrie’s leg. Meg can’t stand to see Lowrie in pain and demands Belch call off the dog. Belch chases her down an alley with the shotgun. When he accidentally shoots into a gas tank, it explodes, killing him, Meg and Raptor. They’re all sucked into the afterlife through winding tubes. During this ride, Belch and Raptor become inextricably blended together into one entity. The Belch/Raptor combo spirals to hell.

Meg’s fate isn’t so clear. In fact, St. Peter and Beelzebub, the Devil’s second in command, have to check the tally sheet. They discover Meg has an equal number of good and bad deeds on her record. She’s sent back to earth to make amends for sinning against Lowrie. If she can better his life, she may still make it to heaven.

The Devil is upset to learn Meg didn’t arrive in hell. He thinks she’s creative and intelligent, and he wants her on his team. He orders Beelzebub and his technology guru, Myishi, to send the Belch/Raptor combo back to earth to make sure Meg fails and turns bad.

Meg finds herself cosmically hurled into Lowrie’s house but it’s now two years later. Lowrie has always been a grumpy old man, but he’s been in even more pain since Raptor bit him. He also has a heart condition and a short time to live.

When Lowrie tries to grab Meg, she finds herself inside his skin. This arrangement is short-lived, but possessing his body gives Meg a glimpse into Lowrie’s emotional and physical pain. It also gives Lowrie a taste of life in a young body again.

Meg tells him she’s been sent back to earth to make things right, and he says she can do that by helping him cross several items off his bucket list. His old body won’t allow him to do these things on his own, but he could do them through her. He’s made a lot of mistakes and has had an unhappy life, but he believes he can die well if he’s able to right some of his wrongs.

Meg helps Lowrie track down an old girlfriend, who is now a popular talk show host. Lowrie always regretted not kissing her after their first and only date, so Meg helps him get to her show. Lowrie kisses his former love on live television.

The man’s next wish is to punch a boy who bullied him long ago. Meg helps him get to the man’s house, and Lowrie discovers the years have softened the man. The two men get drunk together and become friends. Lowrie also wants to sneak into a soccer stadium by climbing over a high wall, something he failed at doing as a young man. Meg helps him accomplish this feat.

Meg confesses that she’d like to punch her stepfather, Franco, and Lowrie asks why. She explains how Franco was verbally and physically abusive to her and her mother when they were alive. He crossed the line when he sold Meg’s mother’s wedding ring to buy himself an expensive television after Meg’s mom died.

In the past, Meg secretly recorded his abusive behavior. She set up a video feed so he could watch (on his old television set) as she destroyed his new TV. And after adding footage of Franco weeping over his broken TV, she took the video montage to one of Franco’s social engagements and played it for all of his peers to see. Part of the reason the Devil wants Meg is that he thinks this was an ingenious act of revenge.

The Belch/Raptor combo possesses Franco’s body. Both Belch and Meg are relying on rapidly diminishing soul residue to keep them functioning on earth. Belch follows Meg and Lowrie as they try to get to a cliff over which Lowrie wants to spit. He wants to complete this task because of a lyric in a song.

Meg is able to share enough of her life force with him to allow him to complete the task before he dies. In her final act on earth, Meg gives her remaining life force to Franco so he can redeem the time he has left. St. Peter welcomes her into heaven where she knows she’ll be reunited with her mom.

Christian Beliefs

St. Peter mans the gates of heaven, and other disciples are mentioned. The Devil manages souls in hell.

Other Belief Systems

When a person dies, he enters heaven or hell based on the number of good or bad deeds he’s done in his life. Meg is sent back to earth as an “in-betweener” because she has exactly the same number of good and bad deeds on her record. She and Belch use soul residue, or unused life essence, to stay alive on earth.

St. Peter, identified as an archangel, and a demon named Beelzebub have developed a working relationship so they can keep each other informed and occasionally help each other out. The Devil has begun offering a deal that allows hell’s residents to own their own souls after a century.

If a person’s aura is blue, he is righteous; if it’s red, he’s hell-bound. Meg’s aura is purple, but she’s trying to turn it blue with her good deeds. Peter is bored of sitting in his marble chair at the gates of heaven for 2,000 years.

Dead people are swept through tunnels that spit them out in heaven or hell. Before Meg returns to earth, Lowrie doesn’t believe there is any justice above ground or under it. Thus, he sees no reason to try and be good.

Authority Roles

Meg’s mother was killed in a car wreck before the story begins. Franco is a lazy, abusive drunk.


The Lord’s name is used in vain. The word hell appears many times, both as a curse word and a location. A-- appears, and residents of hell use phrases like “For Satan’s sake…” and “D--n it to heaven.”

Meg’s stepfather physically and verbally abused her and her mother. A technology aid used by the Devil jams a stake into Belch’s brain. Franco screams and writhes as Belch possesses his body.


Lowrie kisses a woman he loved in his youth.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Lowrie’s wife drank and smoked a lot. She died after coming home so drunk that she accidentally ingested household cleaner. Lowrie gets drunk with an old friend.

For Discussion: Parents may want to discuss the way God, Satan and their minions are depicted. They may also wish to compare and contrast this author’s idea of a good/bad deed tally sheet with the Bible’s explanation of salvation by God’s grace and Jesus’ sacrifice.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

14 to 17


Eoin Colfer






Record Label



O’Brien Press Ltd.


On Video

Year Published





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