Author: Fiona Wood
Themes: love, magic/wishes
What’s it about?
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.
It attempts to show a non-white lead character.
This book contains swearing (f-word), underage smoking and drinking. It has stereotypes galore.
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.
Get to know the author
Click HERE to visit Fiona Wood’s official website.