Ivy Lin was raised by her grandmother in China. Once her parents were settled in the United States, they brought Ivy and her grandmother to live in their low-income neighborhood in Massachusetts. Ivy’s father gets a job at a private school enabling Ivy to attend it. Having been taught by her grandmother at any early age that it was OK to take what you want to survive, Ivy has no qualms about stealing small items to help her fit in with the other children. Ivy feels very much the outsider and become envious of her affluent schoolmates. While in the 8th grade, she develops a crush on Gideon Speyer, who represents someone who has the life she aspires to. Gideon is a stark contrast from local bad boy Roux Roman, an immigrant boy who has the type of life she wants to escape.
Fearing Ivy is heading in the wrong direction, having gone to a party without permission, her strict parents send her to China for the summer to visit relatives. There she is exposed to a world of luxury and free spending and becomes obsessed with having wealth and privilege.
After college, Ivy becomes a schoolteacher and runs into Gideon’s sister. Determined as ever to have the life of those she idolizes, she starts dating Gideon and her dream of living in his affluent world gets closer and closer. While her parents’ social status starts to improve, she fails to appreciate the Chinese heritage she is trying to distance herself from.
White Ivy is an impressive debut novel by author Susie Yang. She manages to create a character who is not very likeable but one you still root for. This book is many things. It’s a coming-of-age story. It is a commentary on race, class and society. It’s about family, secrets and morals. And it is part thriller. This book is slow at times but picks up nicely. I simply couldn’t put the book down even when I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying it. Turns out I did.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
Publication date: November 3, 2020.
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