White Ivy: A Novel
by Susie Yang
Hardcover- $18.29

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  "Fitting in is not easy! Feeling that you fit in is harder." by thewanderingjew (see profile) 01/25/21

White Ivy, Suzy Yang, author, Emmy Woo Zeller, narrator
Superbly read by the narrator, “White Ivy” describes the life of a Chinese child, Ivy Lin, after her mother, Nan, and father, Shen, abandon her, at two years old, in Chongqing, China, to be brought up by her grandmother, Meifeng. Meifeng teaches her to take what she needs from life, even if it is dishonest, to do what is necessary to accomplish her goals. Her parents left China to find a new life in America. At age 5, they finally have enough money saved to bring her to Massachusetts. Upon landing, Ivy discovers she has an infant brother, Austin, born while she was in China. Alone and isolated, received by parents who seem like strangers, parents not gregarious or as warm as her relatives in China had been, Ivy begins her long traumatic journey towards acceptance and adulthood. The road is rocky and less than stellar as she attempts to climb the social ladder.
As a result of the trauma of her early years, Ivy struggles to fit in for her entire life, often making tragic decisions and terrible choices as she tries to balance her present time in America with the Chinese customs of the past that control her mother and father’s efforts to raise their children. She longs to look like everyone else around her, to simply fit in. Children are cruel, and when she attends the private school her father works for as a janitor, she suffers from the taunts of the other children. They know she does not belong. She is always striving to be like them. She wants the life of the elite students who attend the Grove School with her, not because of a parent that works there, but because of their standing in society. She often uses underhanded or unwise methods to get there.
At some point she makes friends. She discovers as she matures, that her needs and desires change. She has a special childhood friend, Roux Roman, who will have a profound influence on her life, not always good, as they both like to push the envelope to the extreme. She will develop a crush that is long-lasting on a young male named Gideon Speyer. She dreams of him and the broader access he could provide to the world that she so desires. Andrea, a quirky individual who always considers Ivy’s well-being, and nurtures her and nurses her through troubling times, is her roommate.
Ivy often jumps to conclusions without facts, making impulsive wrong-headed decisions based on her feelings of being an outsider, of being misunderstood and judged unfairly by others, of being someone who always does everything wrong or is blamed for doing everything wrong. The problem is, she is often doing things that are wrong. Still, she always feels someone is looking at her and blaming her for something, which is a logical byproduct of her mother’s constant shaming her for the slightest infraction. Her mother wants her to be a doctor, as most Chinese parents do, but she has no interest in studying hard, and instead, chooses a different, easier path to a career in teaching, although she doesn’t even like children.
Ivy was more than a precocious child. She learned a lot of bad habits and seems to ignore rules and regulations. Actually, she rather enjoys breaking them and testing the world around her to see how much she can get away with. The clash of cultures is alive throughout the book. Ivy has learned to engage in wanton behavior; she also lies, shoplifts and takes advantage of every situation she can, using people whenever possible, often intentionally hurting them with her cutting tongue and behavior, behavior she has learned from the example of others. Her own mother is rigid and backward in ways, and she is often ashamed of her family. Her grandmother is often kinder to Ivy, behind her mother’s back, but both abide by the rules, customs, proverbs and superstitions that were prevalent during their own early years in China. Because, early on, Ivy was taught that saving face was of utmost importance, she places little value on the virtue of honesty. She does what she has to in order to survive in a culture she never truly feels is hers, in a world in which she always feels like a bit of an outsider.
The story is full of little unexpected twists and turns. Normal rules are flouted. Crime sometimes pays, sex is used as a weapon, and the end justifies the means more often than right makes might. Terrible choices do not always lead to condemnation or retribution and wise choices are not always rewarded.
It is a page turner, although it will be hard to find a single character that the reader will either like or identify with when the final page is turned.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/14/21

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/21/21

  "" by ebach (see profile) 04/13/21

WHITE IVY begins when Ivy is a child. She is Chinese but wants to be white and hang out with the white crowd at school. When she spends one summer in China, at first with rich relatives, she develops a high opinion of herself and a hankering for the rich life. Back in the United States, she dates only white boys. Ivy has a crush on one boy in particular: Gideon.

Ivy and Gideon are pretty much at the center of this story. But so are Ivy and Roux (pronounced Roo), a Romanian who grew up in the neighborhood where she did.

As an adult, Ivy’s desires haven’t changed much. They’ve been amplified. She still wants Gideon and gets him to a point. But something isn’t right. She sees what she wants to see, and Roux is what she settles for when she can’t be with Gideon.

I read WHITE IVY while I was (and still am) quarantined because my husband has COVID-19 and I might have it. I had nothing to do but read. So I read this book more quickly than usual, taking breaks only to sleep. I wonder if I would have enjoyed WHITE IVY otherwise.

I came to detest Ivy. So will you.

I won this book from Simon and Schuster during a Facebook Live event with Susie Yang.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/01/21

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