Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

CloudwishFor 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.

Correction.

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?

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

Published: September 1 2015 by Pan Macmillan Australia

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Source: ARC via Netgalley

Thoughts:

I recognised myself in Jane Eyre. It amazes me how many white people can’t read themselves in black characters. I didn’t feel any separation between Jane and me. We were tight.

– Alice Walker, Sydney Writer’s Festival, 2014.

(I love how Cloudwish opens with this quote.)

Vân felt like a friend who walked down a similar path of books and daydreams. As Vân tackles another school year, she connects with Jane Eyre’s quiet fortitude and draws strength from Jane’s story in her choices to act when she feels compelled to. I wish I could go back in time to discover this book as a high school student. Cloudwish would have joined the ranks of books I constantly re-read as a teen.

I just clicked with Vân’s sense of humour. I felt at home with Vân and her best friend Jess. They would check in with each other for random chats about life with all its light and serious shades of being. Cloudwish brought back high school memories of exploring different passions. It could have been art, sport, science or books that led to a future outside of the tight bubble of social drama. Vân’s zany sense of imagination takes flight with her fantasies, art and wishes. Her imagination is also paired with a grounded sense of realism.

Vân is from a low socio-economic background but she is quick to observe that there are many Asian-Australian families who are from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. She also acknowledges the cultural and/or generational differences between each family. Cloudwish definitely benefited from the author’s research and the feedback from conversations with people. I appreciate books like Cloudwish and Looking for Alibrandi which explore the personal inner conflicts that arise from negotiating what it is like to be caught in between cultures.

Though I am always cautious when I approach a book written by a non POC writer about these experiences. On that note, I’d also recommend reading the autobiographical short stories from Growing Up Asian in Australia edited by Alice Pung and The Boat by Nam Le for a deeper look into these experiences too.

Cloudwish touches upon familial love, a sense of filial duty and Vân’s navigation through the cultural differences which arise, as Vân tries to understand where her own parents are coming from. In high school, my friend ran up to me with a copy of Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung because she’d found a story with Asian-Australian characters that she could relate to. Cloudwish brought out that spark of recognition in me too.

Vân perceives outside privilege and either reflects upon it or calls it out in misunderstandings – especially when she interacts with her crush, Billy and the high school elite of bullies. I liked how the romance developed from a new friendship. I also loved that Vân’s friendship with Jess was a constant anchoring presence and source of support in the story. I’d recommend Cloudwish to anyone – especially if you enjoy a bit of whimsy with your contemporary YA.

Related book recommendations:

  • I’ve already mentioned a few books but I’d also recommend Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty because it’s another wonderful YA contemporary book with a whimsical twist and a few fond nods to Gothic literature.
  • I don’t know why Laurinda by Alice Pung is still sitting on my TBR. I’m so excited to read this Aussie YA book.
  • Not a book but an article by Justine Larbalestier which I definitely recommend: Criticism of Representation in YA is essential. As much as I love Cloudwish, I acknowledge that I still read more diverse stories by non-POC writers than diverse books by POC writers. It’s a systemic bias in my reading habits that I am working on.
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6 thoughts on “Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

  1. I’m excited to see that you’ve read this, Glaiza! It seems like a really magical sort-of contemporary, and although the latter isn’t my favourite genre, I love the whimsy of the former. Overall I’m thinking it isn’t something I’d enjoy- I’ve read Wildlife by the author and it was a good read, but not amazing in hindsight- but I really enjoyed your review and the discussion novels like this, novels featuring diversity and novels featuring diversity that hasn’t been experienced by the author, can bring. I’m really happy these discussions are happening in our blog-land now, because when I was younger I was reserved and I would have been afraid of talking about these kinds of things. It’s such a supportive community and I love that diversity in books is being shouted for, because like everyone is saying: it is so completely necessary.
    The quote this book begins with is so thought provoking and stunning and so… so right. True.
    Lovely review, Glaiza. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Romi! Cloudwish leans more towards the slice-of-life side of contemporary than magical realism, so I think there’s a chance you may enjoy it. Van has a very realistic POV and she logically deals with wishes, which ends up subverting the magical realism element.

      I always find it difficult to strike a balance between reviewing a book and bringing in a discussion that resonates strongly with me, so thank you for the kind words! I actually wish that the word ‘diversity’ would no longer be needed to discuss these issues, as ‘diverse’ books often feature what is normal and relatable to me. Therefore, I’ve been reconsidering tagging/shelving certain books as ‘diverse’ when diverse actually means normal from my perspective. Though this category is also a way to signal to other readers that privilege/systemic bias exists, and raise awareness around those issues, which is why I use it on the blog.

      I was also reserved when I started blogging! Though I’ve found that with some forms of writing, comes the choice to value and share perspectives, so eventually, I ended up linking or partaking a little in discussions that I think are important too.

      Like

      1. I can totally get that, and I think it’s really important you’re truly happy with how you’re shelving and considering the books you read and that are important to you. For me, I can see myself in books even when culture isn’t there- I’m an Australian with Latvian immigrant grandparents. I was raised in a way that was different to the people I had around me, and I have never seen myself, culturally, in a book, and yet I feel conflicted with the question of wanting more “diversity” in books when it comes to culture. Can I, a white person of priveledge, still ask to see my heritage in books when half my culture is already being well represented? When it’s so important to see books featuring MCs from countries and with heritages that aren’t addressed, really, at all?
        I think the We need diverse books movement is really wonderful, but the way WE think about diversity in books shouldn’t become fragmented. I don’t want to see bisexuality in a book and say “this was diverse!” when it really, for me, it’s not “diverse”. It’s just life.

        Ah, so this was a pretty awesome discussion to have, Glaiza. I’m really glad you replied to my original comment like you did so we could talk about this. xx

        Like

      2. Everyone has a right to want to read stories that reflects their personal experience of a cultural reality, so I think it would be awesome to read a book about Australian-Latvian families. I’ve only read a few books that reflect the diversity of Australia, so if I reflect upon the reality we live in, the possibilities for diverse stories are infinite and can never be limited to one story. I’m not Italian-Australian but I still connect with and love Looking for Alibrandi. Stories are open to any reader.

        I think it is possible to ask for books that acknowledge both halves of your heritage. Some of my favourite writers are aware of their privilege, so I think in the long-run, that awareness is beneficial for all – it makes everyone better writers and readers. For example, Kate Elliott is one of my favourite fantasy writers and I remember reading one of her essays, which talks about her experiences growing up with Danish grandparents and how important culturally, those experiences were for her. She is also aware of her white privilege and I’ve enjoyed the diversity of her stories.

        At its heart, the we need diverse books movement is not at all advocating for the exclusion of stories that feature white characters or books by white writers. It’s a movement about inclusion: books with POC or LGBTQUIA characters/writers have historically been excluded from the mainstream – and need to be read and talked about as widely/equally as the rest of the books out there. I completely agree that the way we think about diversity in books should not be fragmented and ‘it’s just life,’ definitely captures that reality we all want to read. I’m glad you replied too! ❤ Sorry for the long reply again. I think Chiara found our discussion interesting too!

        Like

  2. I’m glad you liked this one, Glaiza! I have been reading pretty positive things about it, so I may have to pick it up one day soon (I am always up for a diverse read, especially one written by an Aussie author).

    I have to say I really liked how you weaved your review with your discussion about books centred around POC characters written by writers who aren’t POC. Even though I think writers are free to write the stories of their minds and hearts, we do need to support diverse books written by diverse authors, because they bring the element of lived experience and authenticity.

    It sounds like the diversity in this novel was written quite well, though, which is great! (Also, in your reply to Romi’s comment about using the word ‘diverse’ for books that are normal to you is really interesting. Like you said, its usually to signal to other readers that the book isn’t about a white/cis/het/etc character, but there’s still an element of ‘why is this book called diverse just because it isn’t about a white/cis/het/etc character?’ It’s an interesting topic, and I kind of wish there was a way/word to describe these books that encompasses the fact that people are living these experiences/lives and so the books aren’t ‘diverse’ to everyone.)

    Lovely review ^.^ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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