Cloudwish by Fiona Wood
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: For Vân Uoc Phan, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing, or pointless. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, for example? Pointless. It always left her feeling sick, as though she'd eaten too much sugar.
Vân Uoc doesn't believe in fairies, zombies, vampires, Father Christmas - or magic wishes. She believes in keeping a low profile: real life will start when school finishes.
But when she attracts the attention of Billy Gardiner, she finds herself in an unwelcome spotlight.
Not even Jane Eyre can help her now.
Wishes were not a thing.
They were not.
Wishes were a thing.
Wishes that came true were sometimes a thing.
Wishes that came true because of magic were not a thing!
Cloudwish is Fiona Wood's third novel. It occurs in the same world as her previous novels, Six Impossible Things and Wildlife, and involves some familiar characters. You don't need to have read the previous two to enjoy or understand this book, but it's always lovely to see your favourite characters pop up again, so I highly recommend you do read SIT and Wildlife.
Vân Ước Phan moved to Crowthrone Grammar school two years ago, but since then she's remained quite solitary, there are kids she can talk to, but none she would consider close friends. Luckily her best friend lives in the apartment next door, and she and Jess hang out a lot and work together at a local restaurant.
Vân Ước knows that fantasies don't usually serve a purpose, but she can't help wondering what it would be like to be just like the popular, rich kids at school, rather than the daughter of Vietnamese refugees. She loves her parents, but she also feels embarrassed and lonely. One of her frequent fantasies involves Billy Gardiner, she's had a crush on him for a long time, and when he starts paying attention to her, Vân Ước can't seem to trust his intentions.
This was such a wonderful story involving important topics for teens and adults: refugees, family, sexuality, politics, friendship. And we see all of these topics through the eyes of Vân Ước, a girl who loves art but feels parental pressure to become a doctor. A girl who adores Jane Eyre, photography, and watching movies. A girl who doesn't know much about her family history because her mother finds it too traumatic to talk about. Vân Ước had so much personality, from continuously imagining sports commentators narrating her life, to knowing Jane Eyre quotes for every occasion. I adored her and I could see a lot of teens relating to her. and I think this would be the perfect book to study in high school.
Last year in my review of Wildlife, I commented on the use of ableist language, so I was really impressed that during the story Lou pulls Billy up for using the word retard. It was definitely a word I could imagine Billy using, but it was also great to show another teen picking up on it and letting them know it's not cool.
Cloudwish is a wonderful and relevant story for teens today, and it left me wanting to go re-read Six Impossible Things and Wildlife, just so I could spend more time in the world Fiona Wood has created for her characters.
Thank you to PanMacmillan for my review copy.