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A Wish in the Dark

By: Christina Soontornvat

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.

ISBN: 9781536204940

JLG Release: Jun 2020


Sensitive Areas: Language: Infrequent Use
Topics: Fantasy , Orphans , Escapes , Fugitives , Revolution , Friendship , Prison , Justice , Activism , Retelling of Les Misérables

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PG Middle Plus

Grades 5-8

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$235.90/year

Awards & Honors

2021 Newbery Medal Honor Book

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist*, School Library Journal, The Horn Book Magazine

School Library Journal

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 l 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. The original storyline and well-developed characters make this a standout novel. Highly recommended.

Horn Book

Soontornvat balances inner change and political action with insight and stylistic flair in this fantastical Les Misérables retelling. in Chattana City, the Governor wields a power that is almost absolute and, ever since the Great Fire, he has been the sole distributor and regulator of light. "Light shines on the worthy," he says, descreeing that t Soontornvat balances inner change and political action with insight and stylistic flair in this fantastical Les Misérables retelling. in Chattana City, the Governor wields a power that is almost absolute and, ever since the Great Fire, he has been the sole distributor and regulator of light. "Light shines on the worthy," he says, descreeing that the poor will live in gloom and the rich in effulgence. To Pong, born in a prison and destined by law to stay there until age thirteen, there's no justice in the Governor's claim. When he gets a chance to escape in a stinky load of fruit rinds, he goes, landing in the care of a gentle Buddhist monk. But Nok, the prison warden's rule-following daughter, is bent on capturing him; forced to flee again, Pong 's and Nok's stories, Soontornvat tells a satisyingly intricate tale of escape and chase while raising questions about institutionalized injustices of privilege and want. Her Thai-inspired world is fully engaging, but perhaps most winning is the innocense, hope, and humor she conveys in the context of the struggle for social justice and with respect to the children's growth.

Book Details

ISBN

9781536204940

First Release

June 2020

Genre

Fic

Dewey Classification

F

Trim Size

7 4/5 x 5 1/2

Page Count

384

Accelerated Reader

Level 5.2; Points: 11;

Scholastic Reading Counts

N/A

Lexile

Level 720L

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Candlewick

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Language: Infrequent Use

Topics

Fantasy, Orphans, Escapes, Fugitives, Revolution, Friendship, Prison, Justice, Activism, Retelling of Les Misérables,

Standard MARC Record

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Cover Art

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Book Genres

Adventure; Fantasy

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