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 such an interesting book. Straight away, from the very first page, you know that you’re in for a love story. I haven’t read YA Fiction where the story was completely based on love in a while. Usually, it was Mental Illness or Action, and the love or the love interest was just there as a side dish. Cloudwish is definitely completely reliant on the love. The love is the story. There’s no mucking around here with action or mental illness, it’s just a simple (or not so simple) story about love.
Fiona Wood has done her research well. The main character is Vietnamese, her name: “Van Uoc Phan” (Sorry, I couldn’t find a way to put the Vietnamese accents in). There are smidges of Vietnamese language all throughout the book, and as a Vietnamese person myself, I can vouch that these are definitely accurate. However, the main character apparently doesn’t have a good grasp on Vietnamese. Apparently, though, she can talk to her parents in a way I could never dream of (and I attended 5 years of Vietnamese school and got the best of class every single one). Obviously, Fiona Wood is not Vietnamese, and I doubt that the majority of Cloudwish readers will be so as well, and so it’s not too much of a problem.
The first problem I thought I would have with this book was that it would be clichéd. There are all the ingredients. The Asian kid on a scholarship to a rich school with grizzly parents who only know how to say: “Study more!”
But no way is Fiona Woods going to write something this clichéd and get away with it from her publisher. And so, of course, there’s a love story, and even, (get this!) a touch of magic realism! I loved the way there was that little something different. It’s that small unique quality that completely makes or breaks the book, and this little touch of fantasy was what set this book aside from all the other “poor kid-rich kid” love stories.
A lot was set up in the first few chapters. Obviously, a lot is set up in most books in the first few chapters, but I felt like there was a lot of information given to the reader. However, it wasn’t a straight out info dump. It was more: “let’s recount past stories, and these stories all tell the reader something about my personality, my life, etc”.
There were a few different things about this book. Van was such a two-faced character, and this was shown in a few interesting ways. From time to time, we would have a rant written on her computer. This was a completely different side of what she showed her family and friends. She was brave, outspoken, and she even swore! Then, after the rant, there would be the words: “Select All. Delete.” And she would go back to being the nice, shy, scholarship-kid. These computer rants were almost like diary entries, and they provided a rare insight to the other face of Van. Quote:
Does everyone live this kind of double life?
Another interesting personality quirk was her obsession with Jane Eyre. In moment of need (i.e., being bullied, etc.), Van thought: “what would Jane do?” and then a quote from Jane Eyre would appear. Jane was almost like the ideal Van. It was what Van wanted to do but couldn’t do:
Van Uoc had a suitable Jane Eyre quote for most occasions.
This little interesting tweak of character added depth and reality to Van.
My first train of thought when I was introduced to Billy was, “I find it really hard to believe that he suddenly falls in love with her after completely ignoring her existence for 2 years.” But. Fiona Wood has dealt with this in an extremely clever way. Because of the element of magic in the book, it’s not that hard to just take this on faith. By having those few small magic elements, Wood has managed to successfully allow the reader to suspend all the disbelief at the uncanny coincidences. Very commendable.
The biggest problem I had with Cloudwish was that nothing actually happened. Usually, there are “plot graphs”, where the characters have their first problem, then they turn that around, and at some point, they’ll have a really dramatic lowest point, where everything goes wrong. If you watch any movie at all, you’ll see this graph. A first problem. A first overcoming of that problem. Then a point where everything seems to be going well. Then a lowest point, where people die, everything looks bad, and there’s the whispered “take care of her, please son?” dying father moment. Then the resolution. However, in Cloudwish, I found that nothing actually happened. Billy loved Van. That’s it. No lowest moments. Not much conflict apart from a bit of bullying that seemed to rattle Van way too much, considered she was meant to be a “tough girl who rarely cried”.
A few A4 posters later:
But apart from having no conflict, it was good. There were the other Writing Commandments: Plot, Character, Theme and Setting. So it was still quite good.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with a review copy in exchange for a fair, honest review.
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7/10
Cloudwish is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.
- Title: Cloudwish
- Author: Fiona Wood
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia (August 25, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-13: 9781743533123
- URL: Goodreads, Author Website