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Fiona Wood is an Australian author whose previous YA publications include SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS and WILDLIFE.  Her third YA novel, CLOUDWISH, is set in Melbourne, Australia and chronicles the journey of a young girl, Vân Uoc, whose name means “cloudwish.”

"I believe Wood’s ability and choice to discuss current, pressing issues make the book electrifyingly pertinent to young readers today."

Vân Uoc is a first generation Vietnamese Australian whose parents came to Australia on a boat in 1980 after the fall of Saigon. She is frequently referred to as a scholarship student at her prestigious private high school and has a suitable Jane Eyre quote for most situations. (If you are like me and have yet to read JANE EYRE, this book will definitely move it further up your TBR list.) Vân Uoc’s story is not simply a love story between a boy and a girl. It is about her own personal journey with her family’s past, their expectations for her future, and her acceptance of herself for all her differences.

Billy Gardiner is Vân Uoc’s long time crush and school heartthrob. While he is widely known for his athleticism and intelligence, he also has a reputation as a serial prankster. This reputation leads Vân Uoc to struggle with whether Billy’s sudden attention to her is apart of an elaborate joke or a magical wish. Billy comes from an affluent family whose athletic and career expectations he must deal with as well.

The story begins with Vân Uoc in a creative writing class where a guest teacher passes around a box filled with prompts. Vân Uoc reaches in and takes out a small glass vial with a paper inside stating, “wish.” Upon making her wish for Billy Gardner to prefer her above all other girls and find her fascinating, the vial vanishes. Billy offers to help her find it when she stands up during class to look around her desk. From that moment on, Vân Uoc stays on Billy’s radar until his fascination leads to action. Billy pursues Vân Uoc vehemently and publicly, leaving her the victim of a few “be careful what you wish for” classic moments.

Along Vân Uoc’s journey with Billy, Wood discusses social and cultural issues such as class differences, gender politics and stereotypes. I believe Wood’s ability and choice to discuss these current, pressing issues make the book electrifyingly pertinent to young readers today. These are issues that both teens and adults deal with and it is inspiring to see them represented in the books we read. Vân Uoc learns about and deals with these issues first hand throughout her journey --- making the novel not just a love story between two unlikely schoolmates, but about a girl facing real life issues.

Reviewed by Catherine Rubino on October 27, 2016

by Fiona Wood