Hi friends! This was my book selection for my November Book of the Month Box. It’s one of my favorite book subscription boxes because I get one book a month for the subscription price, but I can add up to two other books if any others strike my fancy. I’m not a Book of the Month affiliate or partner (I wish!), but you can sign up using my referral link here, if you’re interested. It’s a super great gift for Christmas or the holiday season.
Synopsis & Quick Thoughts
White Ivy is Susie Yang’s debut novel, and it follows Ivy Lin, a Chinese American trying to figure out the direction of her life in contrast to her immigrant parents’ wishes. When she reconnects with Gideon Speyer, a former classmate and son of a wealthy politician, she becomes obsessed with his world. But a figure from Ivy’s past enters to upturn everything she thought she wanted.
This is such a good debut. Admittedly, contemporary is one of my least-read genres, so I was skeptical of this book’s ability to draw me in and keep my attention, but it delivered! This novel is a beautiful look at family dynamics, finding yourself, whether among or in spite of, your parents’ desires for you.
There weren’t a lot of things in this book that were blow-me-away incredible or outstanding, but so much that was just very, vey well done. The prose was really well written and eloquent without being overly wordy. I enjoyed the development of our main characters and their relationships and dynamics. Each one seemed realistic and morally grey, which are my favorite types of characters to read about.
I appreciated the role that Ivy’s culture and family dynamics played in both her relationships with Gideon and her own family. I always enjoy when cultural aspects are explored in a novel; it brings a unique element to the story that’s such a fresh breath from ~typical white female protagonist~, especially in the contemporary genre. It’s clear the author knows a lot about and cares about the material and relationships she’s writing, which always brings a special indescribable touch to the novel being written. The plot, moral conflict, and character choices were all unique and fun to read, and certainly kept me guessing and waiting until the final pages.
There aren’t a lot of outright bad things about this novel, but I do think it was somewhat mislabeled in terms of genre and synopsis. I wouldn’t consider this book to be a thriller or a mystery as some have rated it on Goodreads, and I think the synopsis places too much emphasis on Ivy’s thievery, lying, and childhood obsession compared to what is actually in the novel, as most of the plot covers Ivy’s adult life and not the things that take place in her childhood.
I also think the ending was a little jarring and disjointed from the rest of the plot. I didn’t mind the climax of the novel, but I thought it felt a little shoehorned in to try and give the book more oomph in the thriller genre when I saw it as somewhat unnecessary. I also didn’t love the explanation for Gideon’s personality or attitude toward Ivy because it also seemed unnecessary. Maybe it’s because I didn’t pick up on hints given throughout the plot, but it was an aspect of the story I didn’t think needed to be explained – there might just not be compatibility between two people, the reason for it being so doesn’t always need to be stated outright. I apologize if my wording to those who haven’t read this yet is a little vague – sometimes the spoiler-free promise is limiting.
Rating & Final Thoughts
I’m so happy that I’m rating a debut novel, White Ivy, 4 out of 5 stars. This is such a solid novel and I’m excited to see more from Susie Yang. I would definitely check this one out if you’re into contemporaries or books with influence from other cultures. My only word of advice is to perhaps skip the Goodreads synopsis and go in not expecting a thriller. It’s a truly captivating read.
Buy White Ivy by Susie Yang here.*
*as a reminder, I am an Amazon affiliate and make a small commission off of purchases made using my link.