A wish in the dark

by Soontornvat, Christina,

Format: Print Book 2020
Availability: Available at 12 Libraries 12 of 26 copies
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Summary
A 2021 Newbery Honor Book

A boy on the run. A girl determined to find him. A compelling fantasy looks at issues of privilege, protest, and justice.

All light in Chattana is created by one man -- the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong's prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden's perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family's good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat's twist on Victor Hugo's Les Misérables is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice -- and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "A generation after the Great Fire razed the riverine city of Chattana, Pong was born in Namwon Prison. Now, he dreams of rising above his station and serving the Governor, who rescued civilization by outlawing fire and giving light to all through his unique magical power. After Pong learns that the Governor is, in fact, a fascist, he escapes Namwon, prompting the disgraced warden's privileged daughter, Nok, to hunt him. Meanwhile, the oppressed of Chattana organize a peaceful revolt, and as Pong's and Nok's fates intertwine, they each must face hard truths about the oppressive systems installed by the Governor. This Thai-inspired . . . twist on Victor Hugo's Les Misérables explores social justice through two young characters from contrary social classes, with chapters alternating between their respective points of view. It's a novel a stand-alone, no less that seems to have it all: a sympathetic hero, a colorful setting, humor, heart, philosophy, and an epic conflict that relates the complexity and humanity of social justice without heavy-handed storytelling. Soontornvat deftly blends it all together, salting the tale with a dash of magic that enhances the underlying emotions in this masterfully paced adventure. An important book that not only shines a light but also shows young readers how to shine their own. Luminous.--Ronny Khuri Copyright 2020 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "After nine-year-old orphan Pong escapes from Namwon Prison, where he was born, he finds himself on a collision course with the Governor, a powerful autocrat who has built a society for the privileged few. He is unexpectedly joined by Nok, the prison warden's sheltered daughter who, in her quest to recapture Pong and gain favor with the Governor, is confronted with the unseemly truth of his regime. In the revolutionary underbelly of Chattana City, where the orb-lit glow of night seems more vibrant than day, Pong and Nok unite in peaceful protest against the Governor's oppression. Soontornvat's (The Blunders: A Counting Catastrophe!) twist on Les Misérables, set in an alternate Thai city, sends the young protagonists through lantern-soaked night markets; descriptions of food and place are particularly rich and evocative. Though Nok and Pong occupy the same spaces, there is relatively little interaction between them until two-thirds through the story. Instead, the plot's emotional pull comes from their relationship with other characters, such as Pong's connection with kindly monk Father Cham and Nok's with her conflicted father. Soontornvat artfully builds up to a triumphant confrontation, weaving in important themes about oppression and civil disobedience along the way. Ages 8--12. (Mar.)"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Prisoners -- Fiction.
Magic -- Fiction.
Light and darkness -- Fiction.
Privilege (Social psychology) -- Fiction.
Social classes -- Fiction.
Thailand -- Fiction.
Fantasy fiction.
Publisher Somerville, Massachusetts :2020
Edition First edition.
Language English
Awards Newbery Honor Book, 2021
Description 375 pages ; 20 cm
ISBN 9781536204940
1536204943
Other Classic View