Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on September 1st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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 a simply brilliant book and one that I feel should be read by all Australian high school students and, dare I say it adults. It’s a refreshing take and perspective on what life is like as a child of people who immigrated via boat to Australia in the 80s before the negative association we have today of “boat people”, “illegal immigrants” and “refugees”.
Vân Uoc Phan is a high achieving scholarship student at a prestegious Melbourne high school. Her life is not like that of most Australian high school kids. Vân Uoc studies, runs and works before coming home and helping out her parents with dinner, chores and climbing into bed ready for it all to begin again tomorrow. Failure is not an option, being anything less than perfect is not an option and complaining about her lot in life? Impossible, when you know that your Vietnamese parents and ancestors have gone through unspeakable horrors in their own life. When being grateful for surviving is all that matters.
Sitting in her creative writing class at the beginning of year eleven, she draws a simple glass vial out of a bag of inspiration. In the middle of the vial is a piece of paper with a single word scrawled on it – “wish”. Vân Uoc doesn’t believe in wishes but she sits there and absent mindedly wishes that her “mew” Billy Gardiner will find her more interesting then anyone else. To her surprise and concern he starts talking to her straight after class, seeming very interested indeed.
This core of this story is a romantic one. Its about the popular boy noticing the uncool girl and behind the scenes is an undercurrent of racism, poverty, assumptions and ignorance. Both sides have a lot to lose yet overcoming the obstacles and societal expecations will reap them many rewards. The characters are well fleshed out and while I found it a little hard that someone like Billy could be so altered so quickly the premise of the story covers this in a smart and clever manner. I also loved the underlying message that it doesn’t matter if you come from wealth or poverty, if you are australian background or a refugee, everyone has expectations on them at all levels – personal, family and society.
This is the third book of a loosely based trilogy of which I have not read the first two books. I still felt that it rated well as a stand alone and enjoyed every moment of it. A fantastic and diverse read and one I hope is picked up by many Australian teenagers today!