Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Cloudwish: Book Review

Title: Cloudwish
Author: Fiona Wood
ISBN: 9781743533123

Classification: Fiction
Themes: love, magic/wishes

What's it about?
This story is about Vân Uoc who is in year 11 at a Grammar School in Melbourne. She wishes that the handsome, popular, jock, Billy would notice her and then her wish comes true.

Embrace
It attempts to show a non-white lead character.

Beware
This book contains swearing (f-word), underage smoking and drinking. It has stereotypes galore.

My Thoughts...

Avoid It
My first ever novel from Fiona Wood and it will probably be my last. Before I get though to the content I want to start with the very first thing I hated (yes, hated) about this book...the size of it. It is a dreadfully odd size of a book that I could not hold comfortably to read - it is just too big - and with very small print. This got me started on the wrong foot.

I enjoy reading books where the protagonist isn't white - let's face it, most leading ladies in books are white. Vân Uoc is first generation Australian from Vietnamese parents. There is a sprinkling of words from the Vietnamese language but everything else is referred as...she said in Vietnamese...which I found annoying and not authentic. Basically I could have renamed Vân Uoc to Jane and it wouldn't have changed anything. I was hoping for more of an immersion such as Y.S. Lee accomplished in the Mary Quinn series (Mary was of Chinese descent). The Vietnamese element feels flat, forced and perhaps lacking in true knowledge - it reminded me of information I might have found in a book rather than talking to the lady at the local bakery. Vân Uoc's mother's experiences from the Vietnam War feels flat and without the deep feelings or knowledge needed to convey it well. This is made worse by the author telling so much of the story rather than showing. 

Stereotypes - yes sometimes the good ol' stereotype fits into a story but this book is far too reliant on them. As I read I wondered at how much time the author has spent in a modern year 11/12 classroom getting to know those kids. The popular girls are all mean, she is shy and Asian, the jock is blonde and covered in muscles - he's a clown but gets unlimited chances. This all came across as something from an American teen drama (that's the second of the shortlisted Book Week books for this year I have made that comment). Having actually worked recently with this age group it certainly doesn't reflect them - at least not where I live...which is another point. To me this book seemed more Sydney than Melbourne. Where I live we have High Schools - not Grammar Schools. Rowing clubs? Not likely...clearly where I live is poorer than Vân Uoc! I just couldn't connect to the setting. Sometimes the students feel 19 and other times 12. Melbourne seems flat and...the whole thing just doesn't work for me.

On to the romance...or lack thereof. I have a strong dislike for books where a jock "suddenly" falls in love with someone he's never noticed. For a good portion of this painfully slow book I kept thinking back to the movie She's All That just waiting for it all to be a joke. These two kiss, grope, and he uses the "love" line rather early in my opinion. Honestly though, I never feel that they are in love, I never feel my heart skip a beat, it's all just flat. This to me is a book about loving the idea of being in love but not actually loving the other person. It's superficial, flat and unrealistic. 

The plot? I got to the end of the book and wondered what the point was. It took me two evenings to get through it and the ending was...oh, okay, that's it then....so what was the point? I have no idea. This story may, and I stress may, have been better set in university with better developed characters - for high school - this just makes me roll my eyes as the whole book comes across as what someone thinks high school is like rather than knows what it is like now. Oh, and the random sprinkling of f-words got tedious especially when most came from Billy. 

In the classroom? Nope. This book is trying to be a literary classic but fails on the most important points of characters and plot. I wouldn't even recommend to students for a personal read because...well there are far better books out there worth reading when compared to this one.  
 
http://www.fishpond.com.au/product_info.php?ref=4217&id=9781743533123&affiliate_banner_id=1


Get to know the author
Click HERE to visit Fiona Wood's official website.
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5 comments

  1. I'm sorry but how on earth do you know what this book is 'trying to be'? Did the author state this somewhere? This comment is just ridiculous.

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    Replies
    1. My comment is not ridiculous - your opinion is just different from mine. I base my comment on extensive reading for the target audience. The writing style the author has used was more popular 60-80 years ago but is rarely seen now. If the plot was better written and more realistic then my opinion may have been different. In life we use our past experience (in this case novels read) to form opinions about the book. Yes, this book is "trying to be" literary - as demonstrated in the language and style used - which are at odds with a large number of readers in the target audience.

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    2. I don't have an opinion on the book. I haven't read it. I have an opinion on your comment, which is indeed ridiculous. Regardless of how similar or otherwise the book's style may be to work from "60-80 years ago" (a claim I would also dispute), you simply cannot infer what the book was 'trying to do'; we have no access to the author's intent unless she has stated it. I wouldn't accept this level of analysis from my Year 9 students and am surprised to find it here.

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    3. I want to state that your comment comes across as a little aggressive. As a fellow teacher I am sure that you encourage your students to infer feelings and meaning in the text they read all the time - I am merely doing the same. If we solely rely on what has specifically been stated or written then we are likely not stretching out thoughts outside the box. An author's intent or purpose have always been studied where I live. We were encouraged to look at why books were written and for what purpose. Some write for a cause, to make a point, to teach...and there are those who write for the money, or who aim to enter the hallways of the literary greats. All these types of author write and sell their work. As a reader the author's purpose is sometimes subjective and dependent on each individual person's opinion. The review is my opinion. My comment about what it is trying to be is also my opinion. I, along with everyone else in the world, is allowed to have an opinion and state it. We can all read and infer - this won't be the same for everyone.

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    4. This may be of interest to anyone reading this discussion whether they like/dislike the book or my opinion! :)

      After my last response I went and did a little research to see what I could find out about the author's own preferred authors. Most (not all) authors write in the style that has influenced them, eg. who and what they have read. I have made comment on the literary desire of the book and that the writing style seems outdated (60-80 years) compared to other books for the same audience.

      While browsing the author's own website she has listed her authors she has read (I assume she listed them because she liked the books) as Jane Austen (pub. 1811-1818) , L.M. Montgomery (pub. 1908-1937), Louisa May Alcott (pub. 1868-c1887), Susan Coolidge (pub. 1872-1906), Enid Blyton (pub 1922-1975)...among others. Some of those authors listed are indeed considered to be literary greats/classics (and I have read books by all those listed and yes, style has changed dramatically over time). I should perhaps in light of the information adjust the style period back to 100-130 years ago.

      The author's writing style certainly reflects the style of Coolridge, Austen and Alcott in particular (albeit with a modern theme/edge). This new information only supports (in my opinion) my initial comment that this book was desiring to be something that would be comparable because the author has used tone, passage construction, and a general writing style that are all reflective of this early version of YA writing.

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