About the Book:
A young woman’s crush on a privileged former classmate becomes a story of love, lies, and dark obsession, offering stark insights into the immigrant experience, as it hurtles to its electrifying ending.
Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her.
Raised outside of Boston, Ivy’s immigrant grandmother relies on Ivy’s mild appearance for cover as she teaches her granddaughter how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, and her dream instantly evaporates.
Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when Ivy bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.
Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners, and weekend getaways to the cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.
Filled with surprising twists and a nuanced exploration of class and race, White Ivy is a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.
Purchase the Audiobook:
What a sexy and addictive story! It is difficult to categorize this novel into one genre. It is a literary thriller, coming of age story and contemporary fiction all rolled into one. This is how you write a slow-burn, psychological character story.
Ivy Lin is not a very likable character. She schemes and plots her way through life, having been taught to steal what she needs from a young age. She is a wonderful anti-heroine: smart and sensitive but yet very superficial in many ways. Her family struggles with racism and poverty and all of these have lifelong effects on young Ivy.
The author explores the Asian-American immigrant experience and the struggles faced by Ivy’s family. They in turn pass along their frustrations to their daughter and Ivy’s bother. Her parents constantly criticize Ivy, even in to adulthood. She doesn’t have the right friends, or isn’t studying hard enough, or is too wasteful. In other words, she is not a “ting hao” daughter.
Ivy has always been obsessed with her former classmate Gideon Speyer. He is from a wealthy family and when Ivy meets up with him years later, she schemes her way into his life. Gideon’s sister Sylvia arranges for them to reconnect and from there, Ivy will do whatever it takes to ingratiate herself into Gideon’s world of privilege.
“Ivy suddenly saw that life could always be ways like this…honest duplicity instead of the infinitely more exhausting duplicitous honesty.”
Ivy’s childhood pal Roux also reappears in her life and his appearance sets off the thriller aspect of the novel. Ivy was forbidden to see him as a child, since he grew up in the same poor neighborhood she did. Theirs is a forbidden attraction as he is the opposite of everything Gideon represents. Yet Ivy cannot stay away from him.
This is a nuanced and layered story that explores many different themes. Family, childhood trauma, racism, privilege – all are woven into this novel. Although I felt that Ivy might have been more obsessed with Gideon than in love with him, I completely understood her motivations for pursuing him and the life he represented. All Ivy wanted to do was break away from her family and her past.
“Ivy remembered now why she’s stayed away all these years. Home was a load you could never put down once you were back in its orbit.”
‘White Ivy’ is a character-driven, nuanced story with an ending that was completely original and inventive. I loved this book!
(Thanks to Libro.fm and the publisher for an audiobook listening copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.)