Review: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

CloudwishPublished by: Macmillan Australia
ISBN 13: 9781743533123
Published: September 2015
Pages: 288
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended

‘Cloudwish’ by Fiona Wood is sorta the third book in an series that’s not really a series.

The first book, ‘Six Impossible Things’ starts out with a group of high-school aged kids who we then also see in the second book, ‘Wildlife’ (but it focuses on another few kids). This book does the same again – we see mentions of the previous characters we focused on in the other books but each is entirely stand alone and beyond excellent. If you love Melina Marchetta you’ve come to the right place but get ready for someone who is totally themselves at the same time. Fiona Wood is like Marchetta in one way, and entirely different in all other another realm. They’re both brilliant, and I’m already desperate to see more from the amazing Fiona Wood!

Vân Ước Phan is a dedicated student. Her Vietnamese parents are ‘boat people’, who gave up everything so that she would have a better life. At one part in the book it’s stated that they (her parents) had to choose between their parents (who they had to leave behind), and their child/children, who weren’t even born yet. This brings home just what a sacrifice they had to make for their future, and this is why they’re so hard on Vân Ước in every way – barely allowed any socialising, must study every moment, must focus utterly and absolutely on her school work. Especially as it’s Year 11 which is the start of the two year International Baccalaureate study that replaces the final two years of the normal school certificate, which she’s there on a scholarship (the school is fancy, so far above and beyond anything she’s used to), having to leave her previous high school to take up. They live in council flats and Vân Ước’s only friend is Jessica, the girl next door.

This doesn’t mean Vân Ước can’t dream though. She has a sorta-crush on the typical guy at school most girls have a crush on. Billy. The mostly-intelligent (but hides it under stupid pranks and being over-popular and socialising half the year away) champion of the rowing team and constantly surrounded by cruel yet beautiful females of his own social standing. And then, in a class creative-writing session, Vân Ước somehow manages to lose the prompt she was given to write about – a glass vial with the word ‘wish’ written inside. The writing instructor doesn’t seem that fussed, assuring her it’ll turn up sometime – it tends to do that – and Vân Ước is driven to distraction over it. How could it disappear completely? And why right when she was thinking she wished Billy liked her. Found her fascinating, even.

Almost instantly she somehow has his attention. He follows her around, sticks up for her in front of the cruel girls, takes an interest in her hobbies and friends, and also becomes a better person – realising which parts of his self aren’t exactly stellar. The book takes us through triumphs and downfalls as they try to come together, even though they certainly don’t seamlessly fit into each other’s very different worlds. What we have is a fairly accurate depiction of what it’s like to be a teenager – the other characters aren’t unbelievably cruel, and aren’t always perfectly nice either. Each character feels realistic and honest, the adults included. They both meddle and ignore, and are decently important in this significant time in their lives – the start of their final high school certificate.

Though this is a sweet (yet realistic) romance, what’s also important in this book is the journey Vân Ước’s mother is on – suffering depression from what she went through in order to get to Australia. It’s fantastic to see a book of a daughter struggling between cultures who doesn’t moan about her parents and the things they hang on to, but simply wishes (sometimes, not all the time) she had parents who could look after her rather than the other way ‘round. She cares about what upsets her parents, but also struggles to be what they want and expect, and what Australian society is pulling her into.

This book is just as enjoyable as Six Impossible Things and Wildlife – some of my favourite books of 2014. This is one of my most highly recommended books of the year, and you can’t go past the previous two either.


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