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Since the Lunar new year was this month, my book club decided to choose a book that was set in Asia or written by an Asian author. Books were suggested, votes were cast, and “White Ivy” by Susie Yang was chosen. I chose the audiobook version of this book and borrowed it from the library, since it was available right away.
Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, where her dream instantly evaporates.
Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when she bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.
Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners and weekend getaways to the Cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.
Filled with surprising twists and offering sharp insights into the immigrant experience, White Ivy is both a love triangle and a coming-of-age story, as well as a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.
A dazzling debut novel about a young woman’s dark obsession with her privileged classmate and the lengths she’ll go to win his love
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. It had a bit of a slow start, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish it at first, but then I I liked the depth of Ivy’s character. Ivy is a complex character who is trying to make her way in the world, but makes some questionable decisions to get there. She is so desperate to change her life and does what she thinks will make her happy. At times I didn’t know whether to root for her, applaud her, chastise her or feel sorry for her. She is complicated and doesn’t really know who she is, but wants to fit in. I’m still not sure if I liked her.
There is a lot of somberness in the book. It’s kind of a slow burn, but beautifully written with a good amount of highs and lows, and a few twists. The ending was part unexpected, and part expected for me. The climax left me wide eyed, then the ending had me nodding and thinking “yep, that makes sense,” and feeling a little bit sad for Ivy.
This is Yang’s debut novel, and I would be interested in reading more from her.