Apparently this jewel of a book was published a few years ago with a different title. Fortunately Legend Press had enough foresight to republish with a different title. And so it resurfaces now reading as fresh as it must have done in 2014.
This is one of those books that covers the entire spectrum of your emotions and will have you both laughing and crying, suffused with anger yet pacified with calm. Intended for the YA readership this book surely transcends age as so much of it is relevant to a wider audience.
The premise is relatively simple and certainly not original; under-privileged and bright student gains entrance to elitist prep school and has to deal with all that entails. But it is what the writer does with that premise and how she does it that gives this novel such a turbo boost to the Mean Girls (but with brainpower) routine.
I guess if Lucy Lam wasn’t as intelligent as she is this whole story might not get off the ground at all but fortunately for us she is, despite some wobbles of self esteem and misinterpretation of core values. It is the latter two that give her the journey the book describes. She comes through it all remaining true to her intrinsic self, maybe not entirely unscathed but arguably a better,stronger person.
The book is an epistolary to Linh and again, whilst this is not a new structural device in fiction it is used very well here and you don’t actually see what’s coming until nearer the end of the book. It’s a consummate masterstroke. And Lucy is such a well drawn character you simply can’t help but engage with her and will her to make the right choices and decisions.
There are some epigrammatic truths peppered throughout the narrative that set you thinking and if I were to voice any criticism it would be that some of these philosophies might arguably be too mature for the characters in the story and the intended readership. But that’s what gives it a broader appeal and in my opinion makes it a better book ultimately. There are some issues regarding class and race and the big social divide debate continues. However it is a fiction, it is a story to be read, to be entertained by and if desired to educate - parents, teachers, pupils.