Laurinda (retitled Lucy and Linh for the US market) is an amazing book that really deserves to do well. Melbourne author Alice Pung’s writing is superb and elevates this book to something way more special than the ‘Mean Girls meets Fresh of the Boat’ tag her US publishers have slapped on it.
Our protagonist, Lucy, is a girl from a Chinese/ Vietnamese immigrant background who lives in a rundown suburb with her factory-worker dad, outwork seamstress mum and baby brother. She wins an ‘equal access’ scholarship to an exclusive girl’s private school and runs into–well, a lot of weirdness, really, compared to her previous diverse, multiethnic girls school. And not just from the Mean Girls–Pung is great at showing how the whole culture of privilege and the belief that these are the elite is toxic–not just for the kids involved but for wider society. But there are no lectures here. Lucy’s voice is sharp, funny and acerbic in her analysis of what’s going on around her and the book is liberally peppered with brilliant Aussie slang. Much of the book is addressed to Linh, whose identity we only really discover at the climax. A must read. And I really hope they didn’t take the Aussie slang out for the US–shonky (deployed here in a description of Jay Gatsby) is my new favourite word.