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A Wish in the Dark
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A Wish in the Dark
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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...
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...
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  • 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.

 

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Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 20, 2020
    After nine-year-old orphan Pong escapes from Namwon Prison, where he was born, he finds himself on a collision course with the Governor, a powerful autocrat who has built a society for the privileged few. He is unexpectedly joined by Nok, the prison warden’s sheltered daughter who, in her quest to recapture Pong and gain favor with the Governor, is confronted with the unseemly truth of his regime. In the revolutionary underbelly of Chattana City, where the orb-lit glow of night seems more vibrant than day, Pong and Nok unite in peaceful protest against the Governor’s oppression. Soontornvat’s (The Blunders: A Counting Catastrophe!) twist on Les Misérables, set in an alternate Thai city, sends the young protagonists through lantern-soaked night markets; descriptions of food and place are particularly rich and evocative. Though Nok and Pong occupy the same spaces, there is relatively little interaction between them until two-thirds through the story. Instead, the plot’s emotional pull comes from their relationship with other characters, such as Pong’s connection with kindly monk Father Cham and Nok’s with her conflicted father. Soontornvat artfully builds up to a triumphant confrontation, weaving in important themes about oppression and civil disobedience along the way. Ages 8–12.

  • School Library Journal

    February 1, 2020

    Gr 4 Up-Years ago, the city of Chattana burned to the ground in a Great Fire and was thrown into chaos. The Governor restored peace to the city and powered it magically with orbs that gave light, heat, and power. Pong was born in Namwon Prison. Those lights represent freedom; but when he escapes from prison, he learns that the Governor controls who is in light and who is in darkness. In this society, everyone is beholden to the Governor and no one is truly free. Nok's father, born into society and now the prison warden, is disgraced when the 12-year-old Pong escapes. Unable to bear her father's shame, Nok embarks on a quest to find Pong and avenge her father's reputation. As she does, she learns that things are not always as fair and simple as she was taught in school. Nuanced questions of morality, oppression, and being defined by one's circumstances are compounded with exciting action in this novel inspired by Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. The characters are resonant, and the action is enhanced by the fantastical Thailand-like setting. VERDICT The original storyline and well-developed characters make this a standout novel. Highly recommended.-Julie Overpeck, Gardner Park Elementary School, Gastonia, NC

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2020
    A fugitive from prison must evade his pursuer, the prison warden's daughter, while potentially joining a revolution. Pong has lived his whole life in Namwon Prison until a chance escape leaves him free in the city of Chattana. Pong quickly finds that freedom does not come so easily: Since the Great Fire, Chattana is under the strict control of the Governor, who creates the magical lights that run the city and that are the only lights allowed. Marked as a prisoner, Pong has nowhere to turn. Worse, the prison warden's daughter Nok is on his trail, intent on proving both her worth and that of her family with his capture. Meanwhile, larger forces in Chattana are stirring, as not everyone is happy with the Governor's rule. Set in a fantasy analogue of Thailand, all characters are presumed Thai, and Thai life and culture permeate the story in everything from the mangoes Pong eats in prison to the monks he meets beyond the prison's walls. It's also a retelling of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, and Soontornvat has maintained the themes of the original while making the plot and the characters utterly her own. Pong's and Nok's narratives are drawn together by common threads of family, loyalty, and a quest to define right and wrong, twining to create a single, satisfying tale. A complex, hopeful, fresh retelling. (Fantasy. 9-12)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from February 1, 2020
    Grades 4-7 *Starred Review* A generation after the Great Fire razed the riverine city of Chattana, Pong was born in Namwon Prison. Now, he dreams of rising above his station and serving the Governor, who rescued civilization by outlawing fire and giving light to all through his unique magical power. After Pong learns that the Governor is, in fact, a fascist, he escapes Namwon, prompting the disgraced warden's privileged daughter, Nok, to hunt him. Meanwhile, the oppressed of Chattana organize a peaceful revolt, and as Pong's and Nok's fates intertwine, they each must face hard truths about the oppressive systems installed by the Governor. This Thai-inspired . . . twist on Victor Hugo's Les Mis�rables explores social justice through two young characters from contrary social classes, with chapters alternating between their respective points of view. It's a novel?a stand-alone, no less?that seems to have it all: a sympathetic hero, a colorful setting, humor, heart, philosophy, and an epic conflict that relates the complexity and humanity of social justice without heavy-handed storytelling. Soontornvat deftly blends it all together, salting the tale with a dash of magic that enhances the underlying emotions in this masterfully paced adventure. An important book that not only shines a light but also shows young readers how to shine their own. Luminous.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • DOGO Books penipytu-161720596103 - A Wish In The Dark by Christina Soontornvat is about Pong that escapes prison while Nok chases him. Pong’s friend Somkit secretly helps Pong escape from prison after the governor comes. Pong comes to a tiny village almost drowning, and stealing food from a temple someone stopped him. Father Cham helped hide him until Nok finds Pong, then he jumped on a boat and the villagers are trying to find him. In Chattanna Pong fell into the water and his friend helps him get out of the water. While his friend takes him to a hiding place in the town. Nok found out where Pong is in Chattanna. Somkit found a way to make sun orbs that are gold. The hiding place caught on fire and all Somkit’s work got destroyed! I liked this book because it was about a kid who tries to find his own right in the city. Will Pong and Somkit survive the fire? If you want to find out read the book.

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