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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.
Where do I start with this one, beautifully written, there are highs, there are lows. It’s a slow paced read but you find yourself having to keep going to try and understand Ivy. I can’t say she was a person I liked, but I think to some extent I understood parts of why she is how she is.
When we first meet Ivy she is a young child, at two years old her parents moved to America leaving Ivy behind with her grandmother, Meifeng, whilst they found work and raised the money to bring Ivy over to them. At five she believed she was going with Meifeng on the plane to America, it was only when she was handed over to a flight attendant and Meifeng disappeared in the crowds that she realised she was being sent alone. When reunited with her parents she had no idea who they were. They also had a new baby her brother Austin. She was raised in a very strict household with heavy corporal punishment. Her mother, Nan, wasn’t an affectionate person. Her parents wanted her to become a doctor, but Ivy’s grades weren’t good enough. More disappointment. When her father was hired at An elite School Ivy was transferred there as her tuition was free. It was there that she first saw Gideon Speyer. She had a huge crush on him and wanted him to notice her.
Her grandmother joined the family in America when Ivy was seven. It was Meifeng who taught her how to steal. Her only friend was a boy named Roux whose mother was the mistress of a criminal boss. She is sent away to China when she is caught with boys, there she saw two different ways of life, first she stayed with wealthy family members where money meant nothing to them, then she went to stay with other family who were poor, this showed her the disparity between the two. Ivy hated being poor, she wanted wealth and was determined she would get it somehow, she rebelled against her parents and everything they wanted for her, she wanted approval and status but she would do it her way.
As an adult she is a teacher, by chance she meets Sylvia Speyer her old school crushes sister. Before long she has managed to get an invite to a New Years Eve party where Gideon will be. Ivy is determined to catch Gideon and marry him, it is all attainable now and everything is going well until an old flame turns up and threatens to ruin everything. What would Ivy do to make sure she gets what she wants?
At times I felt for Ivy, but then she kept making some bad decisions and I felt myself losing the sympathy I had for her. I didn’t like Gideon or his family who seemed to see themselves better than everyone else, because they had money, old money. Although they did seem to approve of Ivy. But Ivy wasn’t really being her true self. She was really on a track of self destruction. But what about the other people? They also had their own secrets Gideon, Sylvia, Meifeng I did guess what Gideon’s was, or at least I suspected. I didn’t really like the ending if I’m honest.
How far would you go to get what you want? Despite being a very slow burner this is a very well written story, it’s believable there are people out there that would do what Ivy does to get what they want. I wondered if it was Ivy’s upbringing that made her the way she was. Even Austin has his problems. So brings in the old Nature/nurture debate. I sat thinking about the ending for a while after I had finished reading this. Wondering about Ivy’s happiness. Quite a thought provoking ending.
This is a story that looks at immigration, social equality, wealth disparity between the rich and poor, cultural differences. I wouldn’t really call it a suspense/thriller read as I didn’t feel that it really fits in that genre. Hard to believe this is a debut novel, I look forward to see what the author writes next.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susie Yang was born in China and came to the United States as a child. After receiving her doctorate of Pharmacy from Rutgers University, she launched a tech start up in San Francisco that has taught twenty thousand people how to code. She has studied creative writing at Tin House and Sackett Street. She has lived across the United States, Europe, and Asia, and now resides in the UK. White Ivy is her first novel.