By: Fiona Wood
Location: FIC WOO
Genre: Romance- Youth Fiction- Jane Eyre- Contemporary
“Never listen to fools who dis Jane Eyre as being a story about a girl who gets her mean man. This is a character who gets what she wants and lives on her own terms by having moral fortitude, intelligence, courage, imagination and a will of iron. And that is one hell of a checklist. Imagine Charlotte Brontë writing this book in 1847. What a powerful story for women living at that time!”
I have just read a book about immigrant taxi drivers in NZ, it has impacted me, it makes me see every immigrant as a carrier of a story, a journey that has led hurting people to a country that at times has not embraced them a it should. I will be so much more engaged and so much more understanding of these immigrants because of that book!
Cloudwish is a delightful, gentle young adult novel, that brings forward a female character who's non-Caucasian, so that alone was refreshing.
Vân Uoc Phan is the Australian-born daughter of Vietnamese refugees. They're poor and live in a government-owned, high rise apartment in Melbourne, Australia.
Vân Uoc Phan, whose name means Cloudwish, has a scholarship at a prestigious, private high-school, where she makes herself inconspicuous as to not attract the unwanted attention of the rich, mean kids. She's a top student, excellent oboe player and a wanna-be artist, despite her parents' wishes that she'd become a successful/rich lawyer or doctor.
From a distance, and in spite of her better judgment, she fancies Billy, top alpha, good looking male specimen, who's on the school's prestigious rowing team. She knows he's arrogant and a bit of a bully, but she's also seen a better side of him. She daydreams/wishes that Billy would fancy her and suddenly, out of nowhere, he starts falling for her, which she finds disconcerting.
Fiona Wood did a wonderful job describing Vân Uoc's struggles to fit in, while staying true to herself. But who was she? She felt caught in the middle between her Australian-ess and her Vietnamese heritage.
This book forward a very relevant and current issue/situation - that of refugees and of what is abysmally called by the disgraceful government, "boat people". Reading about Vân Uoc's situation and especially about her parents' horrific story was heartbreaking.
This was a very well written, enjoyable, yet compelling novel, that's got teenage angst relating to fitting in, achieving, making decisions and first love. On top of that, there are a few extra layers about class, about opportunities, about immigrants'/refugees' issues and about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
All the many Jane Eyre references and the fact that Vân Uoc considered her a role model of sorts is also a great layer to how this story is told.