Tuesday 17 April 2018

Lucy and Linh, Alice Pung

That was when I learned a very important early lesson: here at Laurinda, mistakes meant annihilation
A literary Mean Girls meets Fresh Off the Boat that follows Lucy as she tries to balance her life at home surrounded by her Chinese immigrant family, with her life at a pretentious private school.

* * * 
3 / 5 

I found Lucy and Linh a hard book to get into. It's written in an epistolary format; the whole book consists of letters from Lucy to her friend Linh as we follow her journey from ordinary public school to an elite Australian private all-girls school Laurinda. This was a difficult read for two reasons: first, I found the writing style a bit weird and unengaging, and second, it was quite emotional!

Lucy Lam's family is poor and Chinese: her father works in a carpet factory, her mother sews clothes in the garage, and Lucy is mostly responsible for her baby brother Lamb. Whilst she fits in well with her friends at the local school, when she secures a scholarship at Laurinda, Lucy's entire life in upheaved. Laurinda is ruled by The Cabinet, a "Mean Girls"-style trio consisting of Brodie, Amber, and Chelsea who play cruel tricks on students and teacher alike, whilst promoting a wholesome image of Laurinda spirit to the administration and parents. 

"White lies be damned - sometimes I loved the truth"

I loved Lucy's relationship with her family. As she grows accustomed to the extravagant life of her classmates, Lucy begins to see the things she has always loved about her house - the furniture, the films her parents watch, how she looks after her brother - and the things she never really noticed - how her parents eat loudly and dine off of newspapers - become embarrassing, cringy, and tacky, and Lucy is ashamed of these thoughts. She's caught between very different two worlds and I found it really emotional!

"I wish I could say I didn't have a chip on my shoulder, but I knew I had a whole Pringles factory up there"

But I found Lucy and Linh quite repetitive: the Cabinet pulls some harmful prank on someone and Lucy disapproves; the headmistress complains that Lucy is not participating in Laurinda-lifestyle (debating, sports, or any extracurricular activities at all); the parent of one's of Lucy's classmates has a massive white saviour complex; Lucy withdraws from her new friends and spends all her lunchtimes in the library, thinking about her new life. There's a lot here that seems cyclic.

Overall, I definitely loved Lucy and thought the whole book was quite thoughtful. I laughed a couple of times and felt tears threaten a few more, but the book lost a lot of its impact as it seemed to drag on and become repetitive. 

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book. 

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