By Fiona Wood
Format: Print ARC
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
To Sum It Up: Vân Uoc Phan tries to fly under the radar, far, far away from the spotlight. She harbors a secret crush on Billy Gardiner, star of her school’s rowing team and totally unattainable because of the difference in their social and economic statuses. Vân Uoc is a scholarship student, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants who fled their homeland to Australia, where Vân Uoc was born. Vân Uoc doesn’t believe in magic, but when her wish that Billy would like her suddenly seems to start coming true, she can’t help but wonder if magic might just be possible.
Review: I’ve wanted to read a Fiona Wood book for quite some time, and, thanks to some wish fulfillment that perfectly ties in to the plot of Cloudwish, I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of the novel. The book’s pretty cover also complements its story wonderfully, capturing the sweet, heady romance that develops between protagonist Vân Uoc Phan and her dream crush, Billy Gardiner.
This is like the zillionth time I’m saying this, but contemporary, and in particular contemporary romance, isn’t usually my thing, so for me to fall hard for that type of book, I had to have really, really, really liked it. And I really, really, really liked Cloudwish. Vân Uoc has a lovely, engaging narrative voice that is occasionally (and hilariously) self-deprecating but never self-pitying. Fiona Wood is also a prose genius, which made reading this such a delight. In her talented hands, what could have been a very formulaic story instead exudes charm, poignancy, and wit.
Vân Uoc is a richly drawn character whose personality I related to very, very much. We both try to attract as little attention to ourselves as possible and react like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights when we end up attracting it anyway. We’re also both skeptics when good things happen to us; we struggle with accepting them at face value and instead wonder when our luck will run out, which it’s bound to do. So when Vân Uoc makes a wish for her crush at school, Billy Gardiner, to like her and it starts coming true, she figures that Billy, a known prankster, is just playing a joke on her. She looks for every possible sign that the relationship that’s slowly building between them isn’t real. Thanks to Wood’s knockout writing, the build-up is simply exquisite.
The other, equally compelling side to Vân Uoc’s story is that of the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants who have high hopes of their only child becoming a doctor or a lawyer. Vân Uoc, meanwhile, aspires to be an artist, something that she hides from her parents. At school, she often feels the social and economic divide between her and her classmates, a difference that a clique of mean girls constantly reminds her about. For Vân Uoc, only able to attend the elite Crowthorne Grammar thanks to a scholarship, the school’s casual clothes day is something to dread, as everyone else turns up wearing designer labels she and her family could never afford. Vân Uoc, however, isn’t the type to feel sorry for herself, making you want to root for her even more. You want her to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. You want her to see herself as the lovely person her friends see. And you absolutely want her and Billy Gardiner’s romance to be 100% for real and forever.
Fans of Jane Eyre will also adore all of the references to Charlotte Brontë’s novel and Vân Uoc’s musings on what Jane would do in a particular situation. Even if you don’t love Jane as much as Vân Uoc does, there’s still plenty to love about Vân Uoc herself and her tale here.
All in All: Cloudwish is a winning contemporary romance, and it’s completely hooked me on Fiona Wood’s writing.