A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
Expected Publication: 2020 by Candlewick Press
Genre(s): Middle Grade, Fantasy
Thank you so much Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review! A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat will be available at all good bookstores.
Oh, what’s this? A pattern! Friends, this is officially the third time I’ve picked up Middle Grade Fiction (I don’t dislike it) without intending to and finding myself pleasantly surprised.
A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat is a magical story centered around Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, and Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter. It focuses on issues like how the world isn’t simply black and white, and on popular themes like friendship, adaptability, resourcefulness and resilience. I love the way the story is executed and am particularly amazed by how it has so little dialogue. The stark lack of dialogue gives every word spoken by the characters more impact and that’s brilliant.
However, I must admit that I find Somkit and Pong’s conversations awkward, particularly at the beginning for both and later, for Somkit. Their dialogue doesn’t sound natural no matter how I read it and I can’t imagine kids who have been neglected and used as a source of entertainment in a prison speaking like that.
On the topic of characters, they’re all pretty archetypal (characteristic of the genre/targeted demographic), but they’re also solid. Each character has something you can learn from, whether big or small. Moreover, the plot is typical of middle grade fiction but as implied by my earlier declaration of love for how this story is executed, it’s fleshed out nicely and written well in overall.
Other than that, the world building is as brilliant as it should be. The attention to detail and the way the details are written are things I appreciate greatly from middle grade fiction writers. They manage to include so much, making all that information feel like an adventure instead of one of those boring information dumps.
Everything considered, A Wish in the Dark is a book that perhaps has one of the purest and most hopeful feeling to it. Like a lot of middle grade fiction, it’s about kids discovering what’s important to them and how they’re going to live in a world that’s not all sunshine and laughter. However, it manages to go through the grimmer parts of reality without well, being negative about it in a way that really sticks to you. Every cloud has a silver lining and it’s knowing that that silver lining is there each time that makes this book feel so pure and hopeful.