A Wish in the Dark
Book cover
Author(s): Christina Soontornvat
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Year: 2020
ISBN/ISSN: 9781536204940
Review

Set in a fantasy world, this story focuses on Pong, a boy born in Nam won Prison. The city is ruled by a tyrannical leader who oppresses the poor and rewards the rich by being the sole purveyor of light. The author was inspired by the classic Les Miserables in creating this story of downtrodden people struggling to be heard and make their lives better. After Pong's dramatic escape from the prison he lives with Buddist monks for four years, shaped and guided by his rescuer, Father Cham. When Father Cham dies, Pong, under great risk as an escaped prisoner, searches for Somekit, his one friend in life. He finds Somekit in Mud House, a burned out tenement where the common people live in semi-darkness. Pong is relentlessly pursued by Nok, the prison warden's talented daughter, who is determined to restore her family's reputation which was tarnished by Pong's escape. Pong and Somekit become involved in the planning of a peaceful demonstration by the people of Mud House (reminiscent of the "Do You Hear the People Sing?" sequence from the stage version of Les Miserables), which they hope will convince the governor to grant every citizen equal rights and equal light. In the process, Nok learns secrets about her family's past which change her elitist attitudes and inspire her to join the cause for justice for all. Combining themes of coming-of-age, protest, and the power of freedom, this book will inspire young readers to stand up for their own beliefs as well as those of all people. This is a thought-provoking adventure that will cause readers to ask themselves whether being safe or having freedom is the better option, and if that needs to be a choice at all.

Reviewer: Josie Stanmyre, Retired Elementary Librarian, Fairfax County Public Schools, Reston, VA
Rating: Recommended
Grade (as stated by Reviewer/SLC): 3-8
Review Date: December 1, 2019
Product Description

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.

Media Type: Book, eBook
Binding: HC
# Pages: 384
Price: $17.99
Genre: Fiction
Sub-Genre: Fantasy
Entry ID: 2229790

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