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Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung

Lucy and Linh

by Alice Pung

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Lucy is a daughter of Chinese immigrants from Vietnam. They live in a diverse working-class Australian neighborhood where her mother sews counterfeit piecework in the garage and her father works in a carpet factory. Lucy wins an "Equal Access" scholarship to Laurinda, a prestigious private girls' school. In letters to Linh (actually her inner self??), Lucy relates her travails of trying to fit in and understand the school culture, particularly when the "Cabinet" ostensibly brings her into the group. It's a searing immigrant story and also a universal story of finding one's place. The mean girls of the Cabinet are stunningly cruel and calculating. At a certain point it becomes painful to anticipate their next move. What was somewhat problematic for me was the voice. Lucy tells her story in the voice of an adult with years of hindsight. How many teens would have the perspective to say things like: "...her face looked like one at a morgue, a face made up by an artist who had not known the deceased in real life and so had given her green eye shadow and plum lips" or the femininity at Laurinda being "so cloistered and yet brimming with stifled sex" and "the young girl-to-old woman transition that skipped sexuality altogether." Aside from that objection the prose is fluid and lyrical with devastating hits of humor and pain. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 18, 2017 |
Think Mean Girls with a sharper focus on class and race. ( )
  mjlivi | Feb 2, 2016 |
This is one of the best books I've read in a while. I stayed up until two in the morning reading this!

It is also one of the scariest I've read- what some of the young girls get away with and the way they go about it, manipulating everyone, was frightening- and the fact that they were learning it all from their parents left me with this paranoid, aching feeling that whenever Lucy was at school, something bad was going to happen. It put me right in the headspace of the characters.

I loved Alice Pung's writing style. I felt she was so articulate in explaining all the complex, mixed feelings and issues brought up in this book. It also had me chuckling in several places.

I liked the ending as well, especially how the Cabinet get their come-uppance not by the other girls stooping to their level and doing a horrible prank and humiliating them, but by being more mature and calling them on their bullshit and making them feel (rightly) that they were being pathetically childish. It gave me more hope that that cycle of adoration and power the Cabinet had was being broken.

Also, it took me about half way through the book to realise that this was set in the 90's! The TV Hits and the Silverchair thing should have tipped me off, but I was like, "hey, maybe these girls have a crush on the 30 year old Daniel Johns of today" instead of realising he was about 15 when Silverchair came out and probably more crushable for teenage girls. Also the fact that Lucy mentions that the Port Arthur massacre was recent and the big deal that is made of a teenage girl having a mobile phone (with an antennae!). I don't know why I didn't realise it before but I was really caught up in the story!

( )
  Meg_121 | Dec 12, 2015 |
Lucy feels like an alien at her posh new school. She feels she has nothing in common with her wealthy classmates but for some reason, the Cabinet invite her to join their group
  sandrargillis | Sep 8, 2015 |
I’ve had some trouble writing this review. I just really loved this book, and that makes them so much harder to review. I will try but chances are I won’t even be coherent…

Laurinda is the funny and insightful story of Lucy Lam, who is given a scholarship place at the exclusive Laurinda Ladies College. This is no ordinary school. Academics is not enough – the young ladies of Laurinda must be passionate, proud and representative of their school. Embodying all of these qualities – and more – is a trio of girls known as the Cabinet, more powerful than the other students and even some of their teachers. Lucy observes the Cabinet and their ways, and as they take her under their wing, Lucy’s identity and integrity is at stake as she struggles through the new world of privilege and wealth.

I loved this. I really did. Written as a letter to her friend Linh, in Laurinda Lucy explores the world of her new exclusive private school that have graciously accepted her as a scholarship student – an Asian girl from the poorer side of town, no less. There are the Cabinet at the centre, with the rest of the school bowing to them and the ability to even dethrone some teachers – nobody wants to cross them, even when what they’re doing is wrong. Lucy can’t believe some of the stuff she sees but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else. She is even taken in by the Cabinet, she goes to their pristine houses, she follows where they lead, she observes them up close. How did three teenage girls end up in such a position of power?

It is only when other students treat the Cabinet like it has power that they actually have power of the rest of the school. It all depends on how they are perceived by the other students. If the rest of the student body stopped treating the Cabinet like they were more special, more important, then they would find they are no different to anybody else. Lucy’s courage was what stood out to me in this novel more than anything else, although I loved the writing, the vivid picture of Mrs. Lam sewing clothes in the garage and the family eating on newspapers, and Lucy’s biting observations, I just really loved her courage. You will cheer for her, like I did, you will want her to show them all, to prove them all wrong. What transpires is better, even though in a way she did show them. See? I’m rambling now, in an effort to avoid spoilers!

This is a fantastic book that I enjoyed from start to finish. A novel of listening to your own voice, of finding yourself, in a competitive school environment where its easy to lose your sense of self. A diverse cast of characters and the witty writing by a fantastic new voice in Australian fiction really bring this story together and will make an enjoyable read for everyone. I hope there will be more fiction from Alice Pung!
( )
  crashmyparty | Dec 10, 2014 |
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Wikipedia in English


Book description
Laurinda is an exclusive school for girls. At its secret core is the Cabinet, a trio of girls who wield power over their classmates - and some of their teachers.

Entering this world of wealth and secrets is Lucy Lam, a scholarship girl with sharp eyes and a shaky sense of self. As she watches the Cabinet at work, and is courted by them, Lucy finds herself in a battle for her identity and integrity. 

Funny, feisty and moving, Laurinda explores Lucy’s struggle to stay true to herself as she finds her way in a new world of privilege and opportunity.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399550488, Hardcover)

Gilmore Girls meets Fresh Off the Boat in this witty novel about navigating life in private school while remaining true to yourself.
Lucy is a bit of a pushover, but she’s ambitious and smart, and she has just received the opportunity of a lifetime: a scholarship to a prestigious school, and a ticket out of her broken-down suburb. Though she’s worried she will stick out like badly cut bangs among the razor-straight students, she is soon welcomed into the Cabinet, the supremely popular trio who wield influence over classmates and teachers alike.
Linh is blunt, strong-willed, and fearless—everything Lucy once loved about herself. She is also Lucy’s last solid link to her life before private school, but she is growing tired of being eclipsed by the glamour of the Cabinet.
As Lucy floats further away from the world she once knew, her connection to Linh—and to her old life—threatens to snap. Sharp and honest, Alice Pung’s novel examines what it means to grow into the person you want to be without leaving yourself behind.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 17 Jun 2016 16:30:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In Australia, Lucy tries to balance her life at home surrounded by her Chinese immigrant family, with her life at a pretentious private school.

» see all 3 descriptions

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