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!
Hello bookworms and welcome back to Josie’s Book Corner! Today I am brining to you a review of Cloudwish (kindly given to me to read for review by Netgalley and Macmillan Australia).
Cloudwish by Fiona Wood is a young adult contemporary romance novel that explores love, life, refugee experiences, class structure and the importance of family all within the confines of a somewhat cliché high-school setting. It was a great read, and several moments pulled at my heartstrings, however, many moments and characters were slightly forgettable.
Fiona Wood constructs characters well. She constructed Vân Uoc, our main character in this story the best, along with her family. However, the side characters were not as well-developed as Vân Uoc and her family was, making them quite forgettable in my opinion.
Vân Uoc is a 16 or 17 year-old Vietnamese girl, whose parents were former ‘boat people’ who fled from Saigon to come to Australia. First of all, great inclusion of diversity on Fiona Wood’s part, making the main character of the story of a different ethnic background. However, her character seemed to be typically constructed. In the novel, Vân Uoc is portrayed as a smart, hard-working student attending school under a scholarship. Her parents expect her to work hard to become a successful doctor. However, Vân Uoc aspires to be part of the creative arts side of the world and has no interest in medicine. She is artistically skilled with a camera and she wants nothing more than to have a career in art.
She also has a secret obsessive crush on Billy Gardiner – the handsome and popular ‘jock’ of the school. He is also somewhat of a bully. When Vân Uoc wished for Billy’s attention (and ultimately got it) I was very troubled. I couldn’t really wrap my head around the fact that she could stand to be with someone who took pleasure in embarrassing others. However, in the novel we never got to see that side of Billy. Only the “new Billy” who suddenly took notice of Vân Uoc after many years in school together.
Throughout the progression of the novel, Vân Uoc’s character develops as she deals with the trouble that comes along side the new-found attention from Billy Gardiner and comes to terms with whether this romance she has found with Billy is genuine and true, or whether it is the effect of the random wish she made in class. She slowly develops a close relationship with her mother as the novel progresses which was the thing that warmed my heart the most.
Vân Uoc’s mother suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, due to her horrible experience fleeing from Saigon to Australia. Van Uoc desperately wants her mother to open up to her and tell her the story of what she experienced but her pleads were met with some resistance. However, slowly, her mother beings to open up to Vân Uoc and it is the most beautiful thing. I almost cried when her mother told the whole story. It was the most emotion I had felt throughout the entire novel!
The other characters, such as Billy Gardiner and Vân Uoc’s best friend were forgettable and under-developed. Billy was delivered to us as this popular bully character, however, what we really see him as is a clueless, rich guy. Of course, this cna be argued to be a side-effect of the wish that Vân Uoc made, however it was all very puzzling and he came off as a very dumb character.
The plot was a classic, cliche high-school scenario. There were the classic “mean girls” group, a handsome, popular guy and a shy, smart girl. It’s a generic “popular boy meets shy, smart girl and falls in love with her, despite everyone looking down on him for it”. There was the classic conflict of the mean, pretty girls doing things to sabotage the main character, claiming “there is no way he would ever like you,”. Not my jazz. Not my jazz at all.
However, despite this and the horrible case of insta-love, this book was very good at focusing on things such as the issue of class structure, between the rich and the poor and in exploring the experiences of those who were ‘boat people’ from Vietnam. I was most touched by Van Uoc’s mother’s story, which had me feeling all the feels and I was surprised to find myself on the verge of tears as I thought about the horror and the pain that those people went through to find a better life. (okay now I need to stop before I start crying!)
The touch of magical realism that was incorporated was also a very nice touch in my opinion. It was slightly out-of-place, but it pushed the story along.
Fiona Wood’s writing style was easy to read and flowed well. There were many references to Jane Austen which were lovely, however I have not read the book before (sadly) so I could not fully connect with the references. The writing flowed swiftly and the tone was ultimately light hearted. However, Wood had the skill of altering the tone to a slightly sadder, more sympathetic tone when it was needed.