My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Cloudwish by Fiona Wood is a novel about Vân Uoc Phan, the Australian born daughter of vietnamese refugees. Vân Uoc is the ‘scholarship/poor/smart/Asian’ at a prestigious private high school and is determined to remain inconspicuous and do well at her studies. She secretly daydreams about Billy Gardner, a ‘jock’ who is on the first team for rowing and who comes from wealth and privilege. When Billy suddenly starts to pay her a lot of attention, Vân Uoc initially thinks it is a setup and that she will soon be the butt of a practical joke.
Yet, Billy persists and a sweet teenage relationship begins.
This novel, however, is not just a romance, it raises a number of important issues such as social status in Australia, the complex plight of refugees and family relations.
Fiona Woods creates some excellent characters in this novel. The protagonist, Vân Uoc, is smart, yet unsettled about her heritage and has many unanswered questions about her parents’ past. She feels pressure to recompense their sacrifices and the trauma of their boat trip from Vietnam by being the perfect daughter and student. Another terrific character is Vân Uoc’s mother. Suffering post traumatic stress, she slides into an annual bout of depression and has much difficulty expressing her feelings or telling about her past. Vân Uoc wishes she could get her mother to talk and fears that they no longer speak the same language (literally and figuratively). Slowly, some of her mother’s stories and feelings are revealed as she begins to attend a support group, giving the reader much insight into the experiences of refugees.
Cloudwish is a cleverly written novel and I highly recommend it to YA readers.