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Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu
Literary fiction

Win Me Something

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Kyle Lucia Wu, on your first book!

by Kyle Lucia Wu

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Quick take

A young biracial woman grapples with identity and belonging while nannying for a wealthy family in New York City.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Acclaim

    Critically acclaimed

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MamaDrama

    Mama drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Nyc

    NYC

Synopsis

Willa Chen has never quite fit in. Growing up as a biracial Chinese American girl in New Jersey, Willa felt both hypervisible and unseen, too Asian to fit in at her mostly white school, and too white to speak to the few Asian kids around. After her parents’ early divorce, they both remarried and started new families, and Willa grew up feeling outside of their new lives, too.

For years, Willa does her best to stifle her feelings of loneliness, drifting through high school and then college as she tries to quiet the unease inside her. But when she begins working for the Adriens—a wealthy white family in Tribeca—as a nanny for their daughter, Bijou, Willa is confronted with all of the things she never had. As she draws closer to the family and eventually moves in with them, Willa finds herself questioning who she is, and revisiting a childhood where she never felt fully at home. Self-examining and fraught with the emotions of a family who fails and loves in equal measure, Win Me Something is a nuanced coming-of-age debut about the irreparable fissures between people, and a young woman who asks what it really means to belong, and how she might begin to define her own life.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Win Me Something.
Win Me Something

1

New York City, 2013

I didn’t know what it looked like to take care of someone. I imagined that being a nanny meant watching a small person bounce her backpack home from school, microwaving chicken nuggets on a paper-toweled plate, and lying with an arm folded behind my head while the bright colors of a cartoon flashed. The intricacies of it hadn’t occurred to me—that I’d have to sniff her palms to discern the citrus scent of soap and scrape dirt from underneath her fingernails. How I’d end up eating a room-temperature scoop of macaroni and cheese off her plate and raking lice shampoo through her soapy scalp. Maybe I couldn’t imagine these moments because when someone asked about my childhood, my mind clenched and closed like two fists in a pool—fingers squeezing for something to come up with when everything around them was a different kind of matter.

I had parents. I had siblings. I had homes, multiple or zero, depending on how you looked at it. I wasn’t un-loved, not uncared for, exactly. It was cloudier than that,ink spreading in water as I tried to claim the words. If you’re undercared for, but essentially fine, what do you do with all that hurt, the kind that runs through your tendons and tugs on your muscles, but doesn’t show up on your skin? There were harder things in the world, hundreds of them. I floated silently through.

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Why I love it

From the very first page of Kyle Lucia Wu’s Win Me Something, I felt an aching tenderness for the main character. Meet Willa Chen—a biracial Chinese American girl who feels adrift, as if the world doesn’t quite have a place for someone like her. “I had parents. I had siblings. I had homes, multiple or zero, depending on how you looked at it. I wasn’t unloved, not uncared for, exactly. It was cloudier than that, ink spreading in water as I tried to claim the words,” she says. All of us have felt this way at some point in our lives, right? As if we don’t belong, not really.

Win Me Something begins in 2013, when 24-year-old Willa finds a job as a nanny for a white, wealthy family in New York City. As she takes care of the precious Bijou, who is coddled with dance lessons and cooking classes and constant attention, Willa can’t help but think of her own fragmented childhood. With parents who remarried and had children with their new partners, Willa flitted between her mother and father’s home, constantly an outsider. How lonely she was, longing to be seen. Now, as a nanny, she wonders how much has changed. As Willa becomes closer with the family she works for, she thinks that maybe, just maybe, she’s finally found a new home. But do they feel the same way? This is a beautiful, devastating coming-of-age story. I hope you love it—and Willa—as much as I did.

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Member ratings (1,032)

  • Andrea M.

    West Point, NY

    A beautifully written novel that delves into the depths of a young mixed-American woman's psyche Thought-provoking descriptions of the angst and desires to understand herself and where she fits in.

  • Sherie L.

    Grand Forks, ND

    Willa just wants a place to fit in, a family she feels a part of. Becoming nanny to Bijou gives her opportunities she hadn't had. Loved how Willa evolved her sense of family and fitting in.

  • Jennifer W.

    Overland Park, KS

    So touching and relatable! This novel puts into words the feelings of growing up Asian-American…I have never felt like I really belonged on either side. It’s really nice to feel seen.

  • Annie P.

    Louisville, KY

    Definitely character driven. It read like a diary. This feels uncomfortable at times but I found Willa’s search for found family compelling. The writing was beautiful and reflective.

  • Kelsey M.

    Lacey, WA

    Beautiful, introspective novel about what it means to be a family and to belong. Loved how Willa’s present day life is intermixed with scenes from her childhood. Highly recommend.

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