Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung
The Chancellor had told me about Lucy and Linh as a new young adult novel, saying that the publishers had described it as Mean Girls meets Fresh off the Boat. I was instantly intrigued. Mean girl cliques are scary and interesting at the same time, and the person-of-color or immigrant angle is unique. Doubly so, since the novel and author are Australian. I wanted to see how this novel pushes this trope in a new direction.
Lucy and Linh is about two best friends who have attended the local public high school together. But when Lucy gets accepted into an elite all-girls academy, she realizes this may be her chance to make it big. She comes from an immigrant family who has several businesses to survive, and so she begins to lead two lives. The novel is told in letters from her to Linh, and it chronicles the anxiety of being two people at once, as well as the workings of the Cabinet, the elite group in the school, who has recruited her to join their ranks. Because it’s an all-girls high school, all sorts of craziness ensues, and we get a sense of how cliques function in a microcosm like this.
I would be really interested to see what Pung comes up with next. I think she has a wry and witty voice, and the epistolary style worked for me. HOWEVER. There is a plot twist about ¾ of the way through the book that cheapened it for me. I won’t give it away, but I was disappointed in the turn it took. It felt shticky in a way that the book really wasn’t. This book is worth a read, though, for its clear-eyed investigations of life in an immigrant family and the social strata that are set up through the lenses of class, money, and gender.