cover image A Wish in the Dark

A Wish in the Dark

Christina Soontornvat. Candlewick, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0494-0

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. [em](Mar.) [/em]