Leaving Wishville

Young Adult - Mystery
292 Pages
Reviewed on 03/23/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Mel Torrefranca is a YouTuber, novelist, and founder of Lost Island Press. When she isn’t writing young adult fiction, Mel enjoys video editing, photography, playing the guitar, and traveling. She is a lifelong San Francisco Bay native where she works during the day and nurses her latte obsession by night.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lisa McCombs for Readers' Favorite

Benji Marino is a fourteen-year-old eighth grader at Wishville Junior High School. He has a good life. He has good friends. He has a mother who loves him exclusively. Why would he want to leave? Why did his father do just that years before, leaving an unbearable scar on the people of the grey town of Wishville? Benji had tried once before. His friends don’t understand, but Benji is determined to question the mysterious world outside Wishville. When his friend Nina predicts her own death, Benji is left with information he would rather not know. There is only one person he can tell and that person is the outcast of Wishville. Can Oliver Strickett help Benji or will he become one more nail in the eighth grader’s quickly diminishing reputation? As Benji solitarily faces his own demons, the citizens of Wishville are on constant alert to his actions.

Leaving Wishville by Mel Torrefranca exhibits intensity unique in contemporary young adult fiction. A study in literary symbolism, Leaving Wishville is the perfect addition to any middle grade/young adult library. As a former eighth-grade English teacher, I would enthusiastically incorporate Mel Torrefranca’s novel into my classroom reading list. Told in the fashion of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, Leaving Wishville is a believable dystopian journey from greyness to a colorful destination of enlightenment. The characters are realistic and the language appropriate to the mood and variety of themes and plot twists of the story. While the majority of characters are middle grade, the overall sense of the story is mature.

Nina Martineck

I think of Leaving Wishville and hear the ocean. I see that misty gray that doesn't seem like it's a real color. Unsettlingly cozy.

Mel Torrefranca does a phenomenal job of transporting her readers into a completely different place. Though I read this book curled up in my room or on my back porch, I always felt as if I were in Wishville, all but tasting the ocean. Every detail, each line of dialogue, even each punctuation mark settles in your chest and tugs. Coming from a small town myself, I'm all too familiar with tranquility feeling empty, but Torrefranca conveys it effortlessly. She finds ways to make you feel things you've only felt in hazy dreams.

Her characters, especially Benji, aid you on your journey. They are as dimensional and dynamic as characters come. Even if they are on the page for just a few lines, you get to know them. Benji is the type of character that you know you've met in real life before--someone who wants more that what they believe they have.


Montgomery High School can be very proud of this 17-year-old author. Mel Torrefranca is a talent from whom I hope we will receive many more literary gifts.

LEAVING WISHVILLE is a coming-of-age novel in which 14-year-old Benji longs to leave his isolated, ocean-side town, desiring to follow in the footsteps of his father. But something -- he knows not what -- is keeping him in Wishville.

A young girl with possibly psychic powers gives him a sealed envelope about his future, and his curiosity can't be contained. Benji then seeks to make amends and forge new connections in his drive to leave Wishville before it's too late.

Along with Benji, the reader meets other young (and older) people who reside in Wishville. Many conversations take place in the book, and the author excels in making those natural, not stilted.

The conclusion of the book is somewhat ambiguous, but that's all to the good; the reader can mull over the possibilities.

It seems to me that some young authors (perhaps because they themselves have been steeped in fantasy novels?) are trending novels about closed societies in which supernatural elements play a major role. Just recently I read BURST, by H. C. Daria, and although that novel's style is quite different from this one, I do recognize some underlying similarities.

I highly recommend LEAVING WISHVILLE, both to YA readers and to adults. And I look forward to the next novel by Mel Torrefranca.


Whether you are 13 or 30, you will absolutely love Leaving Wishville! I had the pleasure of Beta Reading for this wonderful young lady, and you can tell she put her heart and soul into every aspect of this novel. The writing is impeccable, and she draws you in immediately with a mysterious and whimsical storyline. The words describing the life of Benji - the main character - transported me into his life. I felt as though I experienced all of his pain, longing, and distress with him, and it was especially enjoyable to read from the other supporting characters as well. Drama, pain, humor, and friendship, there is something for everyone in this book!


I don’t often read ya/middle-grade mysteries, but I have to say this was one of the best non-sci-fi books I have read in a long time! It has the feel of Neil Gaiman with a bit of contemporary Gen Z vibes that only someone of the generation could write. Benji is also one of my favorite characters ever!! Overall, an impressive book by a young author. I can’t wait to read more of her work :).

Melanie Weiss

Main character has lots of appeal and there is a lot going on behind the surface...Leaving Wishville will lead you into a middle grade/young adult adventure to savor.


I was sent a pre-release digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review on it’s release day.

I must be honest and say I was a little apprehensive before I started reading this, but once I did start, I was completely hooked. Torrefranca’s writing is beautifully lyrical, and the story is a compelling read. All in all, this made it a very hard book to put down!

Torrefranca captures that child-like innocence that creates curiosity in children, and uses that classic teenage desire to rebel to drives the kids ideas. Benji’s inquisitiveness makes him such a relatable character.

The setting of the book, the fictional town of Wishville, is incredibly mysterious, with the residents almost willingly held captive. 10 years before the book, Benji’s father left Wishville and never returned, scaring everyone else into never leaving themselves. It’s here that Benji’s teenage rebelliousness really comes into its own, and he feels a massive erge to leave.

The characters had depth and their character development over the novel was brilliant. I especially thought that James and Benji’s development was clever. Their reactions to events does show an important message about the fact that it is important to share your feelings.

I found the ending particularly difficult to comprehend directly after reading. This was actually pretty clever, I found myself still thinking about the ending a long long time after I finished reading. And I’m STILL not sure what is actually going on with Wishville itself. Personally, I loved this mysterious aspect!

Generally, I think I would recommend this to sort of young and middling teenagers, which is around the age of the kids in the book. Or to any American teenager relishing the memory of the move from middle school to high school.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read, which was a little bit of a deviation from my normal reading habits. I actually loved this book, and I can’t wait for more people to read it!


YouTube recommended me one of Mel’s videos. Next thing I know, I’m reading her book.

The people are certain that anyone who leaves Wishville will die. Benji’s father tried to prove them wrong, he left Wishville and never came back.
Now Benji wants to follow in his footsteps and leave Wishville himself but his friends are always there to stop him. He makes it easy for them though, writing down when he’ll leave and leaving his plans for them to find.

A friend’s dying sister slips him an envelope. When he reads it, everything changes. Benji is finally committed to leaving Wishville once and for all.

Very reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan’s movie The Village, Wishville is a mysterious town sheltered from the rest of the world. Wishville though is more than just a place. It’s the people that make Wishville, not the other way around. This is a story about running away but more importantly, it’s about pushing people away. It’s a story about friendship but with a nice little twist.

A fast-paced story with a memorable cast and a plot that grabs your attention until the very end.

Julie Mozart

When I heard ARCs were open for Leaving Wishville, I was so excited. I had been waiting forever to read something by Melissa Torrefranca, and I couldn’t wait to read it.

Leaving Wishville was another one of those books that I struggled to choose a star rating for. I went to sleep last night with the sure idea that I’d be marking down 4 stars on Googreads. I woke up this morning know that the only reason I took off a star was because I didn’t want it to end. There are so many reasons I wanted to stay in the world of Wishville, figure out answers to so many questions and just live there for a while. The whole story has a surreal allegorical feeling, some sort of fable that I haven’t puzzled out yet.

Leaving Wishville is a tremendous addition to the indie community. It’s sad, but nostalgic, and it doesn’t let you lose hope. The world building got me immediately interested, and I have to say, if Melissa ever writes another book in the Wishville world, I will do what I can to read it. Melissa delivered a powerful coming of age story comparable to Tuck Everlasting and the Giver.

You should read it.


Leaving Wishville by Mel Torrefranca was an incredible read. Overall, strong and relatable characters, amazing plot and a happy reader here :)

The message was so clear and strong that it made me reflect about my relationships with my own friends, just like how Benji, James, Sam and Chloe did during their crisis.

Ben Clarke

From the very first page, I was captivated. Mel Torrefranca’s Leaving Wishville kept me reading late into the night, not wanting to put it down. The characters were incredible! So beautifully written and intriguing. Each character had their own personality, which was both interesting and entertaining.
The plot kept my heart beating at a fast pace throughout the novel. Very intriguing!

I’d recommend Leaving Wishville to everyone! Easily one of the greatest novels I’ve read this year!


Vivid descriptions, thrilling plot and fascinating character personalities. All of which present in this very book written by Mel Torrefranca.

A place where no one knows the outside world and known to no one else but its residents, Benji Marino wants to know more. He wants to know what is out there. Paradise? Certain death? His father's fate? Yet he doubts whether or not he should do it.

A bright red envelope changed this.

It changed everything. His friendship, his goals, the time left for him to achieve these goals.

May 23rd 11.59p.m.. There was no turning back once Benji's gone.

Eunsub Jang

I read this during my volunteering breaks and the time always passed by so fast! The setting was very nostalgic and familiar, and WISHVILLE became a vivid location in my mind. I was impressed by the cast of characters that all felt personal and real, and the climax had me at the edge of my seat flipping the pages as fast as I could. Overall a great read!


I absolutely loved this book by Mel Torrefranca!
I found out about Leaving Wishville through Mel's youtube channel, and I don't regret a single moment I spent reading it. The characters are so well-written, and I love how nicely the relationships between all the characters are shown in the novel.
Mel's definitely one of my favorite authors after this and gave me the inspiration to keep writing.

I highly recommend checking this book out :)