cover image White Ivy

White Ivy

Susie Yang. Simon & Schuster, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-1-982100-59-9

Nonchalant deceit and reluctant honesty undergird generational struggle in Yang’s excellent debut. Ivy Lin doesn’t remember her parents’ leaving her in China in 1982 when she was two years old to be cared for by her grandmother, Meifeng. But Ivy’s cold, unloving reunion with her parents in Boston when she’s five makes permanent the chasm already within the family. Only when Meifeng moves as well, two years later, does Ivy find some comfort and companionship. As Ivy grows into a tempestuous 14-year-old, her and Meifeng’s trips to Goodwill and yard sales come with lessons in stealing: “give with one hand and take with the other,” Meifeng tells her. “No one will be watching both.” Then Ivy meets a politician’s son, golden boy Gideon Speyer. Her crush on him blossoms into obsession, and after Ivy’s parents discover she has been sneaking out with boys from the neighborhood, they send her to spend the summer in China. She returns with renewed resolve to defy her parents’ expectations and to become a part of Gideon’s life and high-class social circles. After Ivy’s mother loses her job, the family relocates to New Jersey, and Ivy spends more time near Gideon after high school. But after Gideon proposes and her presumed happily-ever-after nears, Ivy’s past mistakes catch up to her, and she must choose between family and social status. In Ivy, Yang has created an ambitious and sharp yet believably flawed heroine who will win over any reader, and the accomplished plot is layered and full of revelations. This is a beguiling and shattering coming-of-age story. (Nov.)