may ➹'s Reviews > A Wish in the Dark

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
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4.5 stars

A Wish in the Dark is a Middle Grade fantasy that follows two children: Pong, a boy who escapes the prison he was born in, and Nok, the prison warden’s 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.

I’ve 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 thinking about how perfect it felt. I kept waiting for some flaws to surface in my mind, and I truly couldn’t think of anything.

“Well, sometimes light shines on the worthy. But sometimes it just shines on the lucky ones. And sometimes… Sometimes good people get trapped in the dark.”

Pong is a boy who was imprisoned and treated unfairly because of his mother. He simply yearns to be free, but he also is extremely good-hearted and kind. Nok, on the other hand, is fierce and determined, but still struggling to define her ideas of right and wrong, just like any kid growing up is. Both of these characters are growing, developing their ideas of the world, and learning how to fight for others.

I think an important part of this book is the relationships that the characters form with one another. First and foremost, I adore the sweet friendship between Pong and Somkit. Their brotherhood and support for each other is at the forefront of their interactions, and it is so heartwarming to see how much they have grown to love each other.

Some other relationships I enjoyed include Father Cham, a mentor to Pong. Monks are highly respected in Thai culture, so I loved seeing him teach Pong important life lessons, all Buddhist-inspired. And I also fell in love with Nok’s relationship with her parents! Though there were rough patches, especially as Nok was trying to determine her place in the world on her own, but her parents made certain that she knew they always loved her.

No matter what he did, he could not shut off the light that poured out of the people of Chattana.

I appreciate so much about this book, especially how it artfully tackles social issues such as poverty and wealth distribution. Chattana depends on orb lights, for everything from light to electricity to heating. The system is set up against people who can’t afford the better types of lights and therefore cannot achieve the same quality standards of living, and the rich turn away from their struggles.

Soontornvat talks of privilege and unfairness, discusses how the affluent don’t care about the poor, and, most importantly, questions whether you can actually make a change, when you recognize injustice and believe you cannot do anything about it. She writes these themes in a meticulous way that makes them easy for kids to understand, yet encourages them to explore these issues for themselves.

What really is the cherry on top for me, though, is that this book is brimming with Thai culture. Everything—the names, the food, the customs, the monks, the cover—is gloriously Thai, and seeing my culture written so lovingly means the absolute world to me. Political turmoil and revolution is woven into Thailand’s history, and I love that some of that same kind of rebellion was depicted here. (I also would like to note that there is a lot of mango love, and I, especially as a Thai, wholeheartedly approve.)

“You can’t run away from darkness. It’s everywhere. The only way to see through it is to shine a light.”

You will grow fond of these characters quickly and root for them to bring justice, and you’ll fall in love with the world that it’s set in as well as the culture it draws from. When you finish the book, the only possible reaction is to smile and feel like your heart is expanding beyond your chest.

Even if you don’t normally read Middle Grade, I am begging you to pick this up! Not only because it means the world to me for being a Thai-inspired fantasy and having so much Thai culture in its pages, but because it truly is written on another level. A Wish in the Dark is infused with so much warmth and tenderness, in the big hearts of its characters, in its hope-filled revolutions, and in its message that though there will always be darkness, there will also be—in equal amounts—radiant, brilliant light.

:: representation :: all-Thai cast

:: content warnings :: death, drowning, fire


Thank you to Candlewick Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This did not my affect my opinion in any way.

All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.
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Reading Progress

February 10, 2018 – Shelved
February 10, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
November 28, 2019 – Started Reading
November 28, 2019 – Finished Reading
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: read-2019
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: 4-and-a-half-star
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: arc
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: rep-bipoc-asian
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: diverse
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: fantasy
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: middle-grade
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: my-heart
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: ownvoices
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: rep-bipoc
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: rep-bipoc-author
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: pov-3rd
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: pov-male
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: pretty-cover
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: tears
April 30, 2020 – Shelved as: rep-bipoc-asian-author
May 3, 2020 – Shelved as: favorites

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)

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message 1: by may ❀ (new)

may ❀ omg may has tears, its canon

ily bby <3


message 2: by madeline ♡ (new)

madeline ♡ aha may tearing up THIS IS LEGENDARY


evelyn hugo’s #1 fan BBY I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND IM SO HAPPY FOR YOU


message 4: by julianna ➹ (new)

julianna ➹ get an arc


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

AH IM SO GLAD THIS EXIST <3 but lmao to ju just being like "get an arc" DO U HAVE A HEART SERIOUSLY


message 6: by Emma (new) - added it

Emma That is awesome! It it always nice to have books with characters who are like you, I hope the wait goes quickly and it meets and surpasses all your hopes and expectations for it!
And even though I’m not Asian it sounds really cool and I love reading books with characters are not as often represented so I think I shall wait impatiently for 2020 with you.


may ➹ maymay ☕ wrote: "omg may has tears, its canon

ily bby <3"


i've teared up before u know this

(view spoiler)


may ➹ madeline ☾ wrote: "aha may tearing up THIS IS LEGENDARY"

IT'S NOT THAT UNCOMMON OKAY


message 9: by julianna ➹ (new)

julianna ➹ ilsa ➹ wrote: "AH IM SO GLAD THIS EXIST <3 but lmao to ju just being like "get an arc" DO U HAVE A HEART SERIOUSLY"

okay but everyone already took the sappy things???? unfair i want something original


message 10: by ilsa➹ (new)

ilsa➹ suffer? i wanna hear u scream about this book!


message 11: by Ele (new) - added it

Ele I love Asia-inspired fantasy novels, but they're generally set in the countries everyone writes about. Can't wait for this to be released! You def. deserve to scream for this, btw.


may ➹ ilsa➹ wrote: "suffer? i wanna hear u scream about this book!"

I love it a lot it was so very perfect :(((


may ➹ Ele wrote: "I love Asia-inspired fantasy novels, but they're generally set in the countries everyone writes about. Can't wait for this to be released! You def. deserve to scream for this, btw."

yeah I love Asian rep in all its forms, but it’s usually very focused on East Asia so I’m so happy that this book exists, especially coming from a Thai author herself!!


message 14: by Ele (last edited Mar 24, 2020 05:34PM) (new) - added it

Ele I'm so excited for this book! I'm also so happy you've found yourself represented on the pages......this book must be a treasure, and I am so happy that many Thai children will now get to see themselves in what they read when they were previously unable to.

Also happy to hear about the wealth distribution awareness - this is such an important topic and it's good for children to be made aware of it.


may ➹ @Ele thank you so much!! i’m really excited to get my younger sister to read and love it too 🥺 and yes, i loved all the themes it explored—they’re especially important for younger audiences and she wrote them so well!!


message 16: by Ele (new) - added it

Ele may ➹ wrote: "@Ele thank you so much!! i’m really excited to get my younger sister to read and love it too 🥺 and yes, i loved all the themes it explored—they’re especially important for younger audiences and she..."

I hope your sister loves it! :)


April I so loved this book!!


may ➹ April wrote: "I so loved this book!!"

it’s my favorite! <3


message 19: by Ele (new) - added it

Ele By the way May, speaking of Southeast Asian middle grade novels, I was wondering if you may be interested in Girl Giant and the Monkey King. It's Vietnamese, so not Thai, but I remember you are often excited about other types of Southeast Asian rep. It was very fun (and I hear it's sort of similar to Percy Jackson).


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