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White Ivy by Susie Yang
Contemporary fiction

White Ivy

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Susie Yang, on your first book!

by Susie Yang

Excellent choice

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Quick take

A woman stops at nothing to get the life—and love—she wants in this unsettling coming-of-age about ambition and deceit.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unlikeable

    Unlikeable narrator

Synopsis

Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. 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, where 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 she 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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of White Ivy.
White Ivy

Part One

I

Ivy Lin was a thief but you would never know it to look at her. Maybe that was the problem. No one ever suspected—and that made her reckless. Her features were so average and nondescript that the brain only needed a split second to develop a complete understanding of her: skinny Asian girl, quiet, overly docile around adults in uniforms. She had a way of walking, shoulders forward, chin tucked under, arms barely swinging, that rendered her invisible in the way of pigeons and janitors.

Ivy would have traded her face a thousand times over for a blue-eyed, blond-haired version like the Satterfield twins, or even a red-headed, freckly version like Liza Johnson, instead of her own Chinese one with its too-thin lips, embarrassingly high forehead, two fleshy cheeks like ripe apples before the autumn pickings. Because of those cheeks, at fourteen years old, she was often mistaken for an elementary school student—an unfortunate hindrance in everything except thieving, in which her childlike looks were a useful camouflage.

Ivy’s only source of vanity was her eyes. They were pleasingly round, symmetrically situated, cocoa brown in color, with crescent corners dipped in like the ends of a stuffed dumpling. Her grandmother had trimmed her lashes when she was a baby to “stimulate growth,” and it seemed to have worked, for now she was blessed with a flurry of thick, black lashes that other girls could only achieve with copious layers of mascara, and not even then. By any standard, she had nice eyes—but especially for a Chinese girl—and they saved her from an otherwise plain face.

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Why I love it

Ivy isn’t your typical heroine. She’s got a bit of an honesty problem and she loves to steal. As I turned the pages of this excellent debut, I found myself rooting for Ivy the whole way. But that didn’t mean I always liked or agreed with her choices.

We meet Ivy when she’s a teenager, determined to fit into the white Protestant suburban community in which she’s growing up. A child of the Chinese diaspora, Ivy strives to obtain the glamorous life she associates with the American Dream—no matter what it takes. Her obsession with assimilation culminates in a plot to become friends with her crush Gideon, who epitomizes everything sparkly about suburban wealth. On the outside, he and his family appear to have it all. But when Ivy reunites with him as an adult, cracks begin to appear in this perfect façade—and in hers.

White Ivy is a juicy and fun read with a shocking twist. It’s a coming-of-age novel that will lead to conversations about otherness and ambition. Best of all it will leave you with questions about how and where we look for happiness, which feels like an ever-more pressing preoccupation in these trying times.

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Member ratings (2,538)

  • Marlee F.

    Gainesville, FL

    This was amazing, I’m always drawn to an unlikeable likeable lead. Someone you want to hate but still kind of love. They’re the best characters. This is a great story of culture and personal choices.

  • Cynthia Q.

    CHICAGO, IL

    Don’t give up on this book! The first 2 parts are slow & semi-awful, but it’s setting you up for the real story. Ivy is AWFUL. But I had to know. I had to know what she does & how it ends. Crazy.

  • Jackie W.

    Downers Grove, IL

    Holy Moly! There really are all KINDS of love for all kinds of people. Intense, unfulfilling, destructive, yet sometimes there’s true love ....Let’s just hope Ivy picked the right kind for herself.

  • Christine S.

    Chicago, IL

    Such a well written coming-of-age novel. Ivy’s a very nuanced character with relatable flaws, I sympathized with her even in the darkest moments. Somewhat predictable ending but really enjoyed overall

  • Kathy M.

    Indianapolis, IN

    A very slow start, but once you get into it, it’s an amazing story with amazing characters. There is so much to think about in this story - it stays with you long after you’ve finished the book.

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