Book Review: Cloudwish

By: Fiona Wood
Published By: MacMillan Australia
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Page Count: 288
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary, Magical realism

Cloudwish is the third book by Australian author Fiona Wood. Set in Melbourne, it tells the story of Vân Uoc as she returns to school for her first year of the IB (International Baccalaureate - I loved this, I teach the IB and it's not well known here, so I really enjoyed reading about it). Vân Uoc doesn't feel that she fits in at her exclusive private school. As a scholarship kid, the daughter of Vietnamese migrants, she is expected to do her best in school, go to university, and become a doctor. But Vân Uoc has other ideas. She wants to be an artist.
When a wish made as part of a writing exercise in English class appears to be coming true, Vân Uoc can't believe it. The beautiful and popular Billy Gardiner is suddenly interested in her, but is getting what she wants worth it if it's not real? 

Vân Uoc is a great protagonist. She is smart and funny and loves Jane Eyre, and turns to her frequently for advice. She lives in a flat with a million dollar view through a tiny window that never gets washed. An outsider, she gradually learns that she's not as isolated as she first believed. 

The plight of refugees, so-called boat people in particular, is a big issue in Australia at the moment and Cloudwish explores this through Vân Uoc's relationship with her parents, and their relationship with their adopted country. The relationship between first-generation Australian children and their migrant parents is a recurring theme throughout the book, and one I found very interesting. I have taught a lot of students who, like Vân Uoc, hold the weight of their parents' expectations on their shoulders. Those who like diversity in their fiction will enjoy reading about Vân Uoc and her friends, who reflect a broader picture of Australian society than is often found in literature.

This is a swoon-worthy love story, but it's ultimately a story about a girl finding her feet, knowing her heart, and becoming who she is meant to be. It deals with racism, mental health issues, burgeoning sexuality, friendship and many other things that young adults will relate to.

For Vân Uoc Phan, fantasies fell 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!

Were they?


  1. I'm so excited to get to know Van better! Sounds like a really worthwhile bildungsroman (though I'm glad there's a swoony romance in there too! haha)


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