Book Reviews

Review: When You Wish Upon a Lantern by Gloria Chao

If you’re in the mood for a charming and swoony contemporary, look no further than When You Wish Upon a Lantern. From an auto-buy author, I adored Gloria Chao’s latest. It exceeded my high expectations! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Liya and Kai had been best friends since they were little kids, but all that changed when a humiliating incident sparked The Biggest Misunderstanding Of All Time—and they haven’t spoken since.

Then Liya discovers her family’s wishing lantern store is struggling, and she decides to resume a tradition she had with her beloved late grandmother: secretly fulfilling the wishes people write on the lanterns they send into the sky. It may boost sales and save the store, but she can’t do it alone . . . and Kai is the only one who cares enough to help.

While working on their covert missions, Liya and Kai rekindle their friendship—and maybe more. But when their feuding families and their changing futures threaten to tear them apart again, can they find a way to make their own wishes come true?


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: sexism, emetophobia, racism

From the very beginning, I immediately fell in love with the narration voice of Liya. Not only was she sometimes called Lili – and I’m biased when I say that’s a great name – but she was also endearing, charming, and caring. She is deeply motivated by her family, by the memory of her grandmother, and also struggling to re-connect with those closest to her. How does her family broach the subject of her grandmother’s death? Of their loss and pain? Or of the fact that their business is deeply struggling?

When You Wish Upon a Lantern is driven by characters. It’s a feel good story with second chance romance, miscommunications, and childhood crushes. What more could you want? I could not stop rooting for them as characters, friends, and potential love interests. But what I also loved was the core of family and community. Kai and Liya are not only connected to their community, but they care about their shared success. And the family themes for both Liya and Kai are compelling.

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Feeling like he doesn’t connect with his dad and brother, my heart broke for Kai. The ways he loves to be a baker and the ways his hobby is ridiculed because of gender norms. And of course I loved the way Liya explores grief and an inability to talk about this loss even with our loved ones. When You Wish Upon a Lantern is an instant favorite. If you love a book that portrays the magic of kindness, of the every day, and of community – this is for you. Find When You Wish Upon a Lantern on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Indiebound,, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite holiday?

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