For Vân Ước, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing or pointless. Daydreaming about attending her own art opening? Nourishing. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, star of the rowing team who doesn’t even know she’s alive? Pointless.
So Vân Ước tries to stick to her reality—keeping a low profile as a scholarship student at her prestigious Melbourne private school, managing her mother’s PTSD from a traumatic emigration from Vietnam, and admiring Billy from afar. Until she makes a wish that inexplicably (possibly magically) comes true. Billy actually notices her. In fact, he seems to genuinely like her. But as they try to fit each other into their very different lives, Vân Ước can’t help but wonder why Billy has suddenly fallen for her. Is it the magic of first love, or is it magic from a well-timed wish that will eventually, inevitably, come to an end?
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes
Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Vân Ước, daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, is a first-generation Australian, and apart from chafing under intense academic pressures and the expectations of her parents, she’s nursing a crush on the golden boy of her grade, Billy Gardiner. When a wish that Billy “found her . . . fascinating” impossibly comes true, the popular, athletic Billy can’t leave her alone. At first, she’s sure it’s a trick, especially when in-crowd mean girls start spreading cruel rumors about her. Soon, there’s no denying his interest, but is his love for real or is it just the wish? Though Wood’s description of the immigrant experience often feels fairly paint-by-numbers and the romance comes across a bit half-baked, Wood is perhaps best at capturing the rich, sometimes contradictory teenage emotional landscape, and that’s what’s most powerful here. Brainy, mostly self-assured Vân Ước waffles between confidence, desire, insecurity, guilt, and loyalty, and Wood coolly unspools it all. Fans of her earlier novels will be pleased to see some familiar faces, and others might find solidarity in Vân Ước’s moving coming-of-age.
Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2016)
A Vietnamese-Australian teen grapples with her family expectations.Sixteen-year-old Vân Uoc, a child of Vietnamese refugees, is the perfect daughter and student. As a scholarship student in private school, she is under immense pressure to earn straight A’s, play the oboe, and participate in her school’s community life. During a creative-writing master class, she makes an offhanded wish that Billy, a popular white boy, would like her. Her wish becomes a reality when he suddenly pays attention to her. Although Vân Uoc is initially suspicious of Billy’s wish-fueled intentions, she allows herself to date him—but she’ll never know for sure. Wood’s attempt to walk in a Vietnamese-Aussie teen’s shoes feels removed, as if she’s translating. Vân Uoc’s character comes across as simultaneously self-loathing and indifferent even when she is supposed to be angry or sad. Missing cultural nuances, such as her failure to call an adult the respectful Ông or Bà, will stand out for Asian-American readers. Some characters, such as privileged Billy and “lesbian-in-waiting” best friend Jess, seem to exist merely as elements on a hidden diversity checklist. The text’s inconsistent italicization of Vietnamese words is distracting; many foods are not italicized, yet terms for father, mother, and daughter are. Vân Uoc’s struggle to reconcile her parents’ wishes and her passion for art is a tired conflict, especially for Asian characters. Misguided. (Fiction. 13-17)
About the Author
Fiona Wood is the author of young adult novels, Six Impossible Things, Wildlife, and Cloudwish. Before writing YA fiction, Fiona worked as a television scriptwriter for twelve years, writing everything from soap, and one-hour adult drama, to children’s drama. Prior to this she dropped out of law and completed an arts degree, both at Melbourne University, worked in marketing and in arts management, did some freelance journalism, and studied screenwriting at RMIT. She has served as a judge for the AWGIE Awards (Australian Writers’ Guild) and is an ambassador for The Stella Prize Schools Program. She has two YA children, and lives in Melbourne with her husband.
Her website is www.fionawood.com.
Around the Web
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Cloudwish on Goodreads