Monday, August 29, 2016

ARC Review: Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung

Title: Lucy and Linh
Written by: Alice Pung
Published: September 6, 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I don't read a lot of contemporary YA but from to time to time I like to read them and this one caught my eye. I'm glad I got the chance to read because it was definitely a good read. It was an interesting and unique coming-of-age story with complex characters.

The thing that initially attracted me to this book was the Mean Girls comparison. I'm a huge fan of that movie and I think the comparison actually did make a lot of sense, although this was much more on the dramatic side and didn't have the humor of Mean Girls. But I usually enjoy books that show a bit of the darker side of high school and teenage girls. This definitely did a great job at showing that. There were some tough scenes with bullying and a lot of interesting themes too about popularity and what it means to be popular and a leader. It's the kind of book that makes you think about people and the way they treat each other. This was a fascinating aspect of the story and one that I really enjoyed.

And part of the reason that there was so much about the way people treat each other was because of the characters. This is a book full of characters that are very hard to like, particularly the secondary characters. Of course this is a book, a school, of queen bees and mean girls. They are terrible to their fellow students and exert their power over them with crazy tactics that as an adult I found ridiculous but oh so compelling. And the nice thing is that I don't think it went too far with things. It was a part of the book but it wasn't the focus which I think can sometimes get overly dramatic. Here it felt realistic and that was what made it so good.

But this was a character-driven narrative so much of the book was about the main character, Lucy. Lucy was a particularly interesting character. This is a coming-of-age story so much of the book involves Lucy figuring out the world and her place in it. She makes all kinds of mistakes but in the end she has fantastic development and you do empathize with her. When it comes right down to it she is a caring and compassionate person who just needs to stand up for herself and others more which I think is a lesson a lot of us need to learn.

However, this was a bit of a slow read for me. One of the reasons that I don't read a lot of contemporary is because I'm not typically a fan of character-driven narratives. I'm so much of a plot driven reader that it took me awhile to connect with the story. It's not the kind of book that I didn't want to put down and therefore it took me longer to get to through it than I expected. But I think fans of contemporaries will really enjoy it and like the way that the story unfolds.

On the whole, Lucy and Linh is an interesting read with complex characters and great themes about people and the way they treat each other. It's a book that will make you think and entertain you at the same time.

I give Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung 8.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you are a fan of contemporary coming-of-age stories then definitely check this one out, especially if you like YA high school stories that deal with more of the darker side of things like bullying and popularity. I think the Mean Girls meets Fresh Off the Boat is an apt comparison but it doesn't have the humor of those stories but it's still really good.

Have you read Lucy and Linh? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

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