Title: White Ivy
Author: Susie Yang
Publication Date: 19th August 2021 (Paperback)
Ivy Lin was a thief. But you’d never know it to look at her…
Ivy Lin, a Chinese immigrant growing up in a low-income apartment complex outside Boston, is desperate to assimilate with her American peers. Her parents disapprove, berating her for her mediocre grades and what they see as her lazy, entitled attitude. But Ivy has a secret weapon, her grandmother Meifeng, from whom she learns to shoplift to get the things she needs to fit in.
Ivy develops a taste for winning and for wealth. As an adult, she reconnects with the blond-haired golden boy of a prominent political family, and thinks it’s fate. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the almost-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 dark glimpse at what can happen when we yearn for success at any cost.
The concept of a dark coming-of-age story really appeals to me so I had high expectations for White Ivy. Happily, I can confirm it is every bit as brilliant and compelling as I had hoped. The story follows Ivy Lin, a Chinese immigrant living in America. We first encounter her as a child, cared for by her grandmother, Meifing, in China whilst her parents save money to then have Ivy and Meifing join them in Boston. We then follow Ivy as she grows up, becoming more and more obsessed with obtaining what she views as the ultimate goal of money and privilege. To achieve what she believes she has to, Ivy attaches all her hopes and dreams to an American ‘golden boy’ from a wealthy and elite family whom she briefly attended school with and then reconnects with as an adult. What follows is her desperate and calculated effort to rise to the top and make herself what she perceives as successful.
I was completely entranced by White Ivy. Ivy herself is not overwhelmingly likeable but as a character she is incredibly fascinating. She is so set on what she believes is her destiny – to become part of the world of privilege that she covets at any cost – that her perspective on her family and childhood is completely skewed. Her unyielding determination is in some ways rather impressive but there’s also a tangible undercurrent of darkness to Ivy and her way of thinking. She has a ruthlessness to her which is unnerving yet deeply compelling. Her story demonstrates an intelligent look into the real immigrant experience whilst also delving into a kind of twisted version of the so called ‘American dream’. White Ivy really is a remarkably assured debut. Yang’s writing is razor sharp, witty and vividly clever with more than a whiff of cutting cynicism. She has created a truly memorable narrator in Ivy and a plot that keeps the reader fully invested from start to finish. Intense, authentic, unsettling and beautifully written – I couldn’t recommend White Ivy more highly.
I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.