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A Wish in the Dark

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4.56  ·  Rating details ·  96 ratings  ·  59 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
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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 24th 2020 by Candlewick Press
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Average rating 4.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  96 ratings  ·  59 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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chloe yeung ♡
i received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. all opinions below are my own.

"you can't run away from darkness," pong whispered. "it's everywhere. the only way to see through it is to shine a light."

the french novel les misérables is famous for exploring the topics of poverty, wealth disparity and justice, and these are all handled equally well in a wish in the dark, which has been dubbed a retelling of les misérables set in a thai-inspired world.

in the book, social
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Jenna (Falling Letters)
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  ·  review of another edition
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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Camille Oquendo
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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USOM
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
(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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Kathie
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Misti
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Molly
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A new favorite - unique, magical, and a beautiful message. I couldnt put it down and read it in a day. ...more
Marcie Flinchum
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This fantasy novel is just stunning. The writing is exquisite, the characters are gripping, and the setting--inspired by Thailand--is just beautiful. This is one of the novels where you fall so deeply in that you dont want to come out. Highly recommended for middle grade readers (and their adults who also love to read middle grade books). This is a must-purchase for schools and libraries.
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Paula
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Shealea
Feb 17, 2020 is currently reading it
* I received a physical ARC of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review.

🌻 My links: Blog | Instagram | Twitter
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
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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Aria
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Carrie Irwin
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to receive a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

A Wish in the Dark is a middle grade Thai-inspired fantasy twist on Les Miserables. It follows Pong, a boy who escaped from the prison where he was born, and Nok, the daughter of the prison warden who is determined to recapture him. As the two travel through the novel, they discover the truth of the injustice that flows through their city.

I didnt make it all the way through this book
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Nikki Kohlmeier
Mar 27, 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
LeeAnne
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Pong and Nok come from different sides of the river in their beloved Chattana, but they might as well be worlds apart. He's a prisoner in a youth reform prison; she's the daughter of an upstanding family who believes that "light shines on those who are worthy." Being born on the right side of the river to the right family apparently makes someone worthy of light. What does that mean about all those who struggle; are they not worthy?

After escaping from prison and finding refuge in a tiny village
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Charis Rae
In a world where "light shines on the worthy," Pong belongs in the darkness. After he manages to escape Namwon prison, where he was born, he searches for a way to truly be free of the darkness in his world and in his heart. Nok, the prison warden's daughter, hunts Pong in an attempt to restore her family's reputation. Soon, they both discover the secrets within their magical city, Chattana, and set off to find a way to fight against the darkness once and for all.

Pong paced under the mango tree
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Aaron
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars for me. I got this book from my bookish friends at Book Portage, our Canadian ARC sharing group. I read the back and went, oops, I can't read a book inspired by Les Miserables, I really don't have an idea what its about. (Later, I read two reviews that claimed the same thing- what a relief). However, this book is sensational on its own. Christina Soontornvat has created a world inspired by Thailand but all her own. It's a book about social control, protest, and standing up for one's ...more
Pen
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Stephanie
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A Wish In the Dark
By Christina Soontornvat
In A Wish In The Dark by Christina Soontornvat, you have a world that was scarred by fire and turned to magic to illuminate, heat, and cook. This magic is a blessing in that no one has to worry about the dangers of fire but it is also a curse in that it isnt a free source of energy and it deepens the divide between the rich and the poor. Nobody knows this division more than the children who are imprisoned in the Namwon prison. While light and heat may be
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Deanna Holdsworth
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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Erin
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Em Jay
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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Etinosa
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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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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