Gilmore Girls meets Fresh Off the Boat in this witty novel about navigating life in private school while remaining true to yourself.
Lucy is a bit of a pushover, but she’s ambitious and smart, and she has just received the opportunity of a lifetime: a scholarship to a prestigious school, and a ticket out of her broken-down suburb. Though she’s worried she will stick out like badly cut bangs among the razor-straight students, she is soon welcomed into the Cabinet, the supremely popular trio who wield influence over classmates and teachers alike.
Linh is blunt, strong-willed, and fearless—everything Lucy once loved about herself. She is also Lucy’s last solid link to her life before private school, but she is growing tired of being eclipsed by the glamour of the Cabinet.
As Lucy floats further away from the world she once knew, her connection to Linh—and to her old life—threatens to snap. Sharp and honest, Alice Pung’s novel examines what it means to grow into the person you want to be without leaving yourself behind.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Four stars: A smart, sophisticated coming of age novel with a bit of a twist.
Lucy is just as shocked as anyone when she wins a scholarship to a prestigious girl school. She is the first one to receive this type of a scholarship, and she knows it will change her life forever. She is the daughter of Chinese immigrants, born in Vietnam who later immigrated to Australia via a boat. Her parents toil away endlessly hoping to get ahead. At Lucy's new school, she is confronted by rich, spoiled girls who have wealth and attitudes. Desperate for a link to her old life as she tries to fit into this new world, Lucy begins a series of letters to her life long, best friend, Linh. Linh is outspoken, fearless, and not afraid to say it like it is. If only Lucy had Linh's courage at her new school. The longer Lucy attends the school, the more she is afraid that she will lose herself in the glamour, manipulation and mind games. Will Linh help Lucy survive her new world?
What I Liked:
- Every time I read a novel written by an Australian author, I am always impressed. Lucy and Linh is no exception. With this one, I got a smart, sophisticated coming of age story with a bit of a twist. I loved watching Lucy lose herself, find herself, and grow. What a fantastic story, that is beautifully written and skillfully crafted. If you want something different, and intelligent, try this one.
- Lucy is the shining star of the book. At fifteen, she is just beginning to find herself, and then everything changes as she is removed from her world and thrust into the school of the rich and elite. At first, Lucy drowns amongst the snotty, spoiled girls who cruelly manipulate everyone around them, but once Lucy opens her eyes and sees the viciousness of the girls, she grabs on to her lifeline, her friend, Linh, via letters. I loved Lucy's growth. At first, she tries to hide that she comes from a poor, immigrant family, but then she finds her courage and her voice, she shines. Her growth and maturity by the end are impressive, and I couldn't help but cheer for her in my head as she rejected peer pressure, glamour and popularity and chose her own path. Loved watching her coming of age journey.
- I have to admit, I was a bit perplexed about Linh's character. The book is told in an epistolary format, a series of letters from Lucy to her old friend, Linh, whom she leaves behind. There is so little about Linh, she is a mystery. I gathered that she was outspoken, brash and unafraid to speak her mind. As the book progressed, I became more and more frustrated with the lack of detail on Linh. Who was Linh? Then it all comes clear, and needless to say, I was impressed. I will leave it at that, but I will say that it was brilliant when Linh is properly introduced.
- Another thing that I loved about this book was the focus on family. Lucy's parents are extremely hard working and dedicated to making a better life for themselves and their children. Lucy's mother toils endlessly sewing garments in her garage, she speaks very little English, but everything she does, she does for her family. She doesn't need material objects to make her happy. To her, happiness is her daughter, baby son, and her husband, who sometimes comes home from his shift at the carpet factory, and then spends hours helping her. Lucy's father is kind and caring, and he does everything he can to see that Lucy gets what she needs. The family dynamic is outstanding.
- This book features a mean girl theme, which is never my favorite, but I have to say, that it was expertly handled in this book. At first, the mean girls, or the Cabinet as they are known, are the rulers of the school. Everyone wants to be them or be their friend. However, as the story moves on, their cruel and cunning ways are exposed, and when a few of the girls decide to stand up against them, things quickly unravel. I so appreciated the way that things shifted, and was pleased at the final outcome.
- For all you romance fans out there, you will be disappointed to know that this book does not feature a budding romance, nor is the plot driven by a romance. I was pleased that there wasn't a romance and that Lucy's growth was all dependent on no one but herself.
- The book ends on a positive note, no cliffhangers or unanswered questions. I was satisfied with Lucy's growth and her path into the future. This was definitely a book that will stick with me.
And The Not So Much:
- This book is a slow burner. It takes its time to build, and there isn't much going on at first. However, it is skillfully written, and it slowly drags you in, and then it completely surprises you with the smart revelations. You have to be patient with this one.
- As I mentioned earlier, it is frustrating to have so little information on Linh, the character to whom all of Lucy's letters are addressed. I wanted to know more about this outspoken friend of Lucy's. Patience paid off, and all is revealed about Linh, and I assure you the pay off is worth the wait.
- There is a mean girl theme, and several instances of bullying, which are tough to read, but they are a crucial part of the book.
Lucy and Linh was a book that I took a chance on, and I am so glad that I did. This was an impressive, intelligent and masterfully woven tale about a young girl's journey as she comes of age. I loved the growth of the main character, and I enjoyed watching her change. I especially loved the focus on family. I was also surprised and pleased by an unexpected twist regarding Linh. This is a sophisticated book, beautifully written and unforgettable. It requires a bit of patience, but it is worth the time. Once again, an Aussie writer has throughly impressed me.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for and honest review. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.