White Ivy; Susie Yang
Simon & Schuster - 2020
Ivy Lin is a Chinese immigrant toddler, left in China to be raised by her grandmother when her parents came to the US in the 1980s. At age 5, Ivy boarded a plane from China to Boston, flying solo to join the parents she didn't even remember. Fortunately for Ivy she has her grandmother, Meifeng who helps assimilate her to the American ways. She teaches her to shoplift at yard sales, telling her that the people have plenty and don't even care about the things there are trying to get rid of. As Ivy get's older she carries her thievery from yard sales to store theft.
Sent to Grove Prep Academy on scholarship, it's here that Ivy, a poor girl among wealthy, white kids gets her determination to fit in among the wealthy. She sets her sights on Gideon Speyer, the wealthy son of a US Senator. When her grades slide and her mother discovers her stash of new items in her room, she sends Ivy back to China to live with a relative over the summer, in the hopes that she will change her ways. The only one the age that seems to understand Ivy is her next door neighbor Roux, a poor boy her age with a single mother that is rarely home.
As an adult Ivy becomes an elementary school teacher but she's restless. A chance meeting with Gideon Speyer's sister reconnects her with Gideon. She becomes even more determined to find her way into the inner circle of private clubs, parties and vacation homes. Ivy will do whatever it takes to get the life that she thinks she wants.
This was a very hard book for me to review but, let me say that I really liked it a lot. It's so well-written, a story about ones Chinese heritage while aspiring to become someone else entirely. It was a bit of a slow burn but turning into an unexpected thriller by the end. I thought it was also a terrific character study with insight into Chinese-American child-rearing. Ivy's grandmother Meileng, was one of my favorite characters, she and Roux seemed to be the two people who really understood the real Ivy. The ending was satisfying enough but, it made me wonder whether we might hear more about Ivy in a sequel. I hope so. An impressive debut novel.
Rating - 4.5/5 stars