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A Wish in the Dark

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4.54  ·  Rating details ·  81 ratings  ·  49 reviews
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
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ebook, 384 pages
Published March 24th 2020 by Candlewick Press
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Average rating 4.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  81 ratings  ·  49 reviews


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may ➹
4.5 stars

A Wish in the Dark is a Middle Grade fantasy follows two children: Pong, a boy who escapes the prison he was born in, and Nok, the prison wardens daughter who has become a warrior. As Nok tries to track him down, Pong discovers how the rich of Chattana thrive while the poor struggle, and he and his friend Somkit band together to bring justice.

Ive said before that I felt like this book was flawless, and I still stand by it. Immediately after I finished it, I remember smiling broadly and
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Jenna (Falling Letters)
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, middle-grade, 2020
Review originally published 27 March 2020 at Falling Letters. I received a free copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Content warnings:(view spoiler)

Of all the books Ive read this year, A Wish in the Dark feels most keenly relevant to todays world. (I mean that in a broad sense, not a COVID-19 sense). Soontornvat has penned a moving story about the importance of believing in positive change and standing up
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ayesha,,
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5

Middle grade fantasy?? is a genre that's usually a hit or miss for me. A wish in the dark is definitely a hit because it combined all the good elements of middle grade and fantasy and gave us a book that truly SLAPS.
A wish in the dark, set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, is about a boy named Pong who grew up in a prison because of the crimes of his dead mom (wtf right?). This world he lives in is ruled by a Governor who is practically a walking talking torch or in other words he creates
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Kathie
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
ALL THE STARS!!! This is my favorite read of 2020 so far; in fact, it's been a VERY long time since I've loved a book as much as I loved A WISH IN THE DARK. Thank you to the author for sending an ARC to #bookportage for review.

I'm not going to try and review this book. Others can tell you how it's masterfully written, inspired by Les Miserables in a Thai-inspired world with a touch of magic. I've never read or seen Les Mis, I can't tell you how it compares, but I will tell you I'm convinced it
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Sarah
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes the sheer rightness of a book reminds me so overwhelmingly that people are mostly good, and that my faith in humanity is neither naïve nor misguided, that it inspires both a wave of universal love and a fierce sense of affection and gratitude toward the author for leaving such a gift where I could find it. A Wish in the Dark is like that. Soontornvat enspells us with exactly what we came fora Les Miserables-inspired story in a Thai-inspired fantasy worldbut if youve read other books ...more
Brenda
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Wish in the Dark is set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world and has been described as a "twist on Les Miserables." Both do emphasize the themes of social justice, human rights, and privilege. In Soontornvat's story, there is an inequality of wealth surrounding the light orbs and the way they're distributed among the villagers. The city is separated into a wealthy Westside and a poor East, an uneven system where only the rich can afford the brightest of orbs. The Governor controls how the lights ...more
USOM
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

At first I was skeptical of how A Wish in the Dark could pull off a Les Mis re-telling for middle grade audiences, but I had no reason to be. A Wish in the Dark tackles the same issues of privilege, justice, and corruption in thoughtful ways for middle grade audiences. It asks us the price of staying quiet, of being complicit in a system that is unfair. Retaining elements of Les
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Misti
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Pong grew up inside a prison. When he sees a chance to escape, he takes it even if it means leaving his best friend Somkit behind. Pong ends up at a monastery in a small mountain town, but he knows he cant stay there forever. Events come to a head when the former prison warden visits the monastery with his family, and his daughter Nok recognizes Pong. Holding him responsible for her fathers disgrace, Nok pursues Pong. He flees to the city, where unrest is brewing among the poor, who cant afford ...more
Nandini | Novels and Nebulas
I'm so thankful for the opportunity to read this early! I received an e-ARC via Net Galley from Candlewick Press.

Reasons to Love
✔ Middle grade fantasy
✔ Thai-inspired setting
✔ Cat-and-mouse plot
✔ Magic system based on light
Les Misérables with a twist

Characters

Plot

Writing

Verdict

For a more thorough analysis of the book, check out my full review posted on Novels and Nebulas.
Shealea
Feb 17, 2020 marked it as to-read
* I received a physical ARC of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review.

🌻 My links: Blog | Instagram | Twitter
Molly
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A new favorite - unique, magical, and a beautiful message. I couldnt put it down and read it in a day. ...more
Paula
WOW! I received an ARC of this novel by Christina Soontornvat and as soon as I picked it up, I had a hard time putting it down! Christina has created a 'Thai-inspired fantasy world' with characters that will have you cheering and jeering as the search for justice and the fight against unfair privilege is led by two young boys imprisoned for the crimes of their mother. We also meet, Nok, the prison warden's daughter who is on a quest to track down these boys based on her sense of loyalty to her ...more
Becky B
Pong is itching to be free. But freedom cant be anything but a dream for a boy who was born in Namwon prison. He and his best friend Somkit are stuck in the prison until they are 13 just because their moms were put in prison. Their mothers are both gone, but the boys have to stay. And there isnt much hope for them once they get out. Everyone believes that those born of prisoners will just end up back in prison, and in Chattana that happens frequently. When Pong sees his chance to escape one day, ...more
Donna Aquino
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Les Miserables meets the South East is the flavor that I didnt knew I would love. A Wish In The Dark is a middle-grade fantasy retelling, and I must admit I dont read middle grade a lot but Christina Soontornvats book read as a very mature middle grade book. Set in a Thailand-inspired setting, you will feel like you were in a boat on one of the rivers in Thailand as you read this novel.

We are met with Pong, a child born in Namwon Prison due to his mothers offences to the government. He is one of
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Camille Oquendo
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
HAPPY (ALMOST) RELEASE DAY TO A WISH IN THE DARK!

This book has been on my radar for over a year, so to be fortunate enough to receive an ARC, I was beyond happy to get a chance to read it early. Upon finishing it, I can definitely say it's become one of my favorite reads of 2020 so far.

Cleverly written, absorbing. I enjoyed the fact that AWITD wasn't info dumpy which I feel a lot of fantasy books fall victim to; the flow of the story felt very easygoing. I'm amazed by how many things
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Aria
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Review can also be found at Snow White Hates Apples.

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, whats this? A pattern! Friends, this is officially the third time Ive picked up Middle Grade Fiction (I dont dislike it) without intending to and finding myself pleasantly surprised.

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat is a magical story centered
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Nikki Kohlmeier
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat is a beautiful middle-grade story about literal light, as well as the light within us all. The book is set in Chattana, a "Thai-inspired fantasy world," and tells the story of Pong, a boy born in prison, and Nok, the daughter of the prison warden. Pong escapes from prison and goes on a journey of discovery, all the while nervous that he will be caught and sent back to prison for the rest of his life. Nok finds Pong and is determined to turn him in, ...more
Nikki Kohlmeier
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat is a beautiful middle-grade story about literal light, as well as the light within us all. The book is set in Chattana, a "Thai-inspired fantasy world," and tells the story of Pong, a boy born in prison, and Nok, the daughter of the prison warden. Pong escapes from prison and goes on a journey of discovery, all the while nervous that he will be caught and sent back to prison for the rest of his life. Nok finds Pong and is determined to turn him in, ...more
Pen
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-readbypen
I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my reviewing the book.

"The most vulnerable among us always deserve the greatest blessing."

First of all, read this book! Share it and explore it because it's representing a world that you probably aren't very familiar with.

I really wanted to love this book. The Thai setting, the mixture of fantasy and reality, of mangoes and shrimp paste made me so excited for a book that represents Southeast Asia. I even preordered it to
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Em Jay
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Every now and then, a book comes along that's just a little bit perfect. A little bit special. Not in a loud way, but the sort that wraps itself around your heart and whispers, I'm going to stay here forever.

A WISH IN THE DARK is brilliance.

Set in the beautifully wrought city of Chattana, this story is a loose Les Miserables retelling about a boy who escapes from prison, a law-abiding girl desperate to prove her worthiness, and an unjust Governor who controls the world's light. Not only is it
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Erin
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mg-fantasy
Thank you NetGalley and Candlewick Press for the opportunity to read this beautiful story. Christina Soontornvat has created a truly magical, original Thai-inspired setting and breathes new life into the Haves vs. Have Nots conflict. Born in Namwon Prison, our protagonist Pong escapes, hoping for a much brighter future. He doubts himself and the goodness of other people. A spiritual encounter leads Pong to reconsider his potential. The privileged Governor lords his magical light over the poor ...more
Deanna Holdsworth
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I finished this book I felt all the feelings including: happy, sad, hopeful, and so much more! This story has it all!
Chattana is a city that found itself in the dark after the great fire. The Governor brought light back to the city but not all receive the brightest of the light. The Governor restored the light and peace with very strict laws. Pong and Somkit are two young boys who have lived their entire lives in prison because it is where they were born. Pong manages to escape and finds
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Etinosa
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I enjoyed every minute I spent reading this book.
It follows two kids, Pong and Nok. Pong was born in prison while Nok is the prison warden's daughter. Two kids on opposite sides of society in a town where light is provided in glowing orbs by the governor. Pong is driven by his desire to be someone better, to break away from his prison roots while Nok is driven by the desire to do what's right and make her parents proud.
This book explores classism, the struggle to survive in an unfair world,
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Marcie
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I would like to thank Net Galley for the chance to read this ARC. I loved this book! It is a fantasy world book about injustice against those weren't born into privilege. The characters and book itself was very well written and I was drawn page by page by this wonderfully written story. The narrative pulls you in and you feel the power of Soontorvat writing in ways I'm not sure I can do justice trying to explain. I'll end with this quote from the story that spoke volumes! I highly recommend this ...more
Debbie Tanner
This story feels like a combination of a folk tale and a dystopian future novel. It's about three kids - Nok, Pong, and Somkit. They are all growing up in a prison. Nok's dad is the leader of the prison and Pong and Somkit live there because their parents were prisoners. They are set to be released when they are 13, but that's not soon enough for Pong. So he devises a plan to escape. Pong escapes but Nok's dad is highly embarrassed that a kid could have escaped, so the search is on. Pong ends up ...more
Kelly Farnsworth
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading A Wish In the Dark by Christina Soontornvant. Definitely one of my top and most favorite reads so far this year. Its full of suspense and mystery and with a fast pace of action that makes it hard to put down. Pong was born in Namwon Prison and had lived there with his cousin Somkit for 11 years. Pong escapes and is perused by Nok, the wardens daughter. As she hunts for Pong, secrets and discoveries are made with both of them as they then rally for truth and peace. I love ...more
Laurie Hnatiuk
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
Here is a book that you will want to preorder and selflessly read first because once it is on the shelves it will not be back. Described as a twist on Victor Hugos Les Misérables in a Thai-inspired fantasy world Christina Sootornvat has delivered a fascinating, cant-put-down read.
Not having read Victor Hugos classic I cannot compare the two. What I can say is that you have a very strong character in Pong who at 9 years of age on the onset of the story, fights for justice and equity and is in
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Ren Bedasbad
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book
A story of 2 children in a Thai-inspired fantasy world set against a tyrannical government in a similar vein as Les Miserables. It is a fun story with the main characters going through a lot of character development and fight for something more then themselves. The setting is interesting but not overly complicated. The writing is good with a simplicity that makes it an easy read and perfect for Middle School age kids. As an adult I enjoyed the story and looking forward to sharing it with my ...more
Megan
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
I received a free copy of an ARC in exchange for a review. I was so excited to receive this book. The description was a Les Mis inspired tale set in a fantasy Thai society, which ticked off a lot of boxes for me. I loved learning of Pongs improper imprisonment as a young boy, escape, and time with the Buddhist monk who showed him how to live as an ethical member of society. The eventual climax of the book lacked some of the emotional heart that the first half included, but on the whole, it is a ...more
Rajani LaRocca
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A WISH IN THE DARK is set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world and reimagines Les Miserables for middle grade readers, drawing upon themes of justice, courage, and mercy. The characters are well-drawn and likable, the magic intriguing and unusual, and the writing lyrical yet completely accessible for young readers. Pong's story is so compelling, and readers of all ages will love reading about his journey from escaped prisoner to hero. I couldn't put this one down!
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Christina Soontornvat grew up behind the counter of her parents Thai restaurant in a small Texas town with her nose stuck in a book. She is very proud of both her Thai and her Texan roots, and makes regular trips to both Weatherford and Bangkok to see her beloved family members (and eat lots and lots of Thai food!). Christina is the author of the fantasy middle grade series, The Changelings, and ...more

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