I love West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award time! I simply waltz into my local library, look at their WAYRBA display and pick a few. I’m never disappointed. This year I’m off to a great start because my fingers closed around a stunner – ‘Cloudwish‘ by Fiona Wood.
This book for older readers has multiple subplots that kept me hooked. Thank goodness for a stormy day that meant the garden wasn’t calling me outside! Vân Ước Phan is an addictive main character, intricate and strong. I loved her growth through the novel, her intelligence and spirit. Hiding away inside, waiting for life to start after school, disconnected from family and school friends, she is an amazingly complex character who had me cheering her journey.
I really loved the ‘idiot life commentators’ that pepper the novel with humour and bite – who hasn’t wondered at times what people would say about the way they were acting! Wood’s use of ‘Select All. Delete’ ‘free writing’ to allow Vân Ước to thought-dump allowed for some of the best revelations, and I loved the soft background commentary on refugees’ and women’s rights that was pitched so perfectly that it never felt preachy. The dose of perspective near the end was so cuttingly true, I think we all need to hear it.
Always in the background is this beckoning tinkle of magic and fantasy. And of course Billy Gardiner, the Love Interest, who begins as a gorgeous but crude jock with hints of ‘the moment before the Incredible Hulk started hulking’, and becomes beautifully multifaceted.
But is it all just a trick? How long do wishes last?
Natural, witty dialogue and a setting you can taste and smell make this a great book. I haven’t read Wood’s other works, and I’m going to rectify that! The fact that Vân Ước loves Jonah Griggs from Melina Marchetta’s ‘On the Jellicoe Road’, one of my favourite all-time books, just makes ‘Cloudwish’ even better for me.