Review: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Cloudwish by Fiona WoodCloudwish by Fiona Wood
Published by Poppy on October 18, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars

Sometimes trouble is just a wish away.

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?

Imagine my annoyance when I go on GR to mark that I’m starting Cloudwish only to see that now it’s third in a series. I suspect this is a case of companions and, while I’d still like to read them in order, none of these books was marked part of a series until pretty recently. This really doesn’t matter for my opinion of Cloudwish; I just want commiseration. Though I will forever be mildly annoyed that I read this “series” out of order, unless I find out that whoever labeled this was joking, Cloudwish was a great place to start.

There’s a lot about Cloudwish that reminds me of the Melina Marchetta contemporary novels I’ve read, but, unlike those (all but Jellicoe Road), I was completely captured by the voice. Vân Ước, daughter of Vietnamese immigrants to Australia, probably seems diffident and boring to most of her classmates since she doesn’t talk much in public. She keeps her head down and works hard to keep her scholarship to her prestigious school. No one really notices her, and she likes it that way.

Inside her head, though, Vân Ước’s vibrant and angry. She dreams of someday being able to deal with bullies head on in the way that her hero Jane Eyre does. She wants to be that honest and able to state her feelings. Jane Eyre helped Vân Ước master English and impacted her life in a permanent way. Cloudwish is, in some ways, the story of Vân Ước coming out of her shell and becoming more Jane-like.

The catalyst for Vân Ước’s change in behavior is a fateful English class where they’re forced to do some creative writing about a random item from a box the guest lecturer brought in. Vân Ước ends up with a little glass bottle with a piece of paper inside that says “wish.” After her inner monologue leads her to a wish that her crush, the incredibly popular Billy Gardiner, will notice her, the bottle disappears. Then, all of a sudden, Billy’s noticing her all right.

Billy begins to pursue Vân Ước with a consistency and insistency that puzzles absolutely everyone but Billy. Vân Ước initially doesn’t trust his attention, expecting it to be one of Billy’s elaborate pranks, since he’s not actually that nice. One of the things I found so refreshing about Cloudwish is how long it took for Vân Ước to trust Billy’s interest. She actually hates having him into her for a really long time, because she can’t be sure why he likes her all of a sudden or if he really does and in the meantime his attention has turned a spotlight on her for all of the bullies of the school. A nobody doesn’t garner the affection of the most popular boy without collateral damage.

The wish element, though cute, does end up being more of a detriment than a positive element to the story. It strides along the border of magical realism without taking a step inside, which leaves the wish bottle seeming incredibly gimmicky and Vân Ước’s grasp of reality questionable. It wasn’t enough to spoil the story for me, and the undercurrent of Vân Ước not wanting Billy’s love if it’s not real was effective.

The romance between Billy and Vân Ước gets off to a bad start but proves surprisingly cute. At first, Billy seems just taken with her, determined to claim the next girl in his line of conquests. Vân Ước isn’t always the easiest girl to get to know, with controlling parents who would very much not approve, and a busy schedule. They do seem an impossible ship at the outset, but the more time they spend together, the more surprising commonalities appear. Billy’s arc, due to the magic wish bottle, doesn’t get clarified as much as I’d like, so he does come out seeming perhaps a bit too perfect by the end, but I’ll allow it because they are so cute and he clearly is undergoing some sort of change.

Cloudwish deals frankly with the racism (some kindly meant, some outright offensive) that Vân Ước deals with on a daily basis. That’s a big part of the anger circling inside her secret heart. After that class, she begins free writing regularly to help process all that anger, and her rants are lovely to behold. Along with her journey to additional confidence, Cloudwish has a subplot about Vân Ước growing closer to her mother, learning what she suffered in getting to Australia. It’s a powerful, painful story.

Cloudwish deals with a lot and everything isn’t perfectly resolved into a little bow at the end, but there’s a sense of progress on everything and it feels so real. I read Cloudwish from cover to cover, putting it down only to go see a movie and staying up way late to finish. This novel’s quiet, understated, and, despite the sometimes heavy subject matter, light and funny. I actually laughed out loud a handful of times reading this book, something I don’t do a ton.

You bet your ass I’ll be going back and reading more Fiona Wood ASAP. Check this one out, contemporary romance fans. It’s worth it.

Favorite Quote:

“I can’t wait till it ends, the Jenga thing. It’s the bro-dudes building the world, and destroying the world. Too much like real life to be funny.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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One response to “Review: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood”

  1. Alexandra says:

    Disclaimer – it’s been a while since I’ve read Fiona Wood’s books BUT I’m fair sure that there are NO characters in common between Cloudwish and Wood’s earlier two Six Impossible Things & Wildlife (which really are companion novels, in the more traditional sense). So *to me* I think it makes much more sense to classify this as a standalone, not part of a series. Unless the setting is the common thread that links the three books? But Wildlife is predominantly set in an outdoors adventure camp, so that doesn’t fit either. But in terms of reading order, it’s better to read Six Impossible Things before Wildlife, although not essential (if you don’t mind a pretty major spoiler) but quite honestly, Cloudwish could be read first, last, or in the middle.

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