Updated: Mar 10, 2021
White Ivy...… I cannot help but think of Poison Ivy when I read this title and strangely, it fits. This book was different than I expected, but was well worth the read. Ivy is toxic and manipulative on the inside, but sweet and subtle on the outside. She immigrated to the US and just wants to fit in with her affluent classmates. The difference is that Ivy will do whatever it takes, no matter who becomes collateral damage.
White Ivy by Susie Yang is a debut novel about a young woman obsessed with fitting in with the status quo of her privileged classmates and the limits she will push to get there. A coming of age story with dark twists.
Ivy Lin immigrated to the US at five years old and has always compared herself to her peers. She wants what they have, even if it means lying and stealing. Her childhood crush on a boy named Gideon comes to fruition when their paths cross as adults. Ivy will do anything to make her relationship with Gideon work and to have the life she always dreamt she deserved.
White Ivy actually surprised me. I will say, I expected it to be darker, but this is one that grows on you the more you reflect on it after finishing. I went into this one a bit confused, because I was expecting a typical thriller, but this one is more of a character study with a dark twist.
It's easy to relate to Ivy. No one wants to feel like they don't belong. But as her story progresses, the reader gets to know her more and discover how deep her insecurities grow. I will say, I felt like at times these dark sides of her personality needed some more character development and I did predict the ending. I chalk that up to the fact I read a lot of character driven novels, so I tend to be a bit picky with character development.
What I found intriguing about Ivy's story were the pressures from her parents to adhere to both their Chinese culture, but also assimilate into the US. Ivy's parents go to the US to establish their life, but leave Ivy behind in China. When they do have her come over, she flies across the world at the young age of five, to live with parents she hasn't seen in over three years. How terrifying and traumatic. I have to imagine this had a major impact on Ivy. Because of that, I had a lot of compassion for Ivy for most of the book. That is, until the end, because What. The. HELL. Shit just got real. That's all I'll say and I'll leave it at that....
Content warnings: toxic relationships including manipulation, gaslighting and domestic abuse, death
3.5-4 stars-impressive for a debut novel
"Let this be your first lesson: give with one hand and take with the other. No one will be watching both."
"Knowledge, like money, was foolish to give away for free. You could never get it back."
"All her life she had had secrets. They had held her up like stilts on quicksand, without which she would have sank long ago, just another one Sylvia's sheep waiting to be led to slaughter."
"She would never be able to make this plain, undeviating man understand that the most fragile inner parts of a woman were compiled from a million subtle looks and careless statements from others; this was identity."