[Review] Laurinda by Alice Pung

09:06 Cilla P 0 Comments

You like to think that within you there is quiet courage and conviction, a sense of righteousness that is not judgmental. That's what you like to think about yourself. But you're wrong. You are not truly good until you are tested, and even then you might become a worse person.
In the hands of another writer, Laurinda may look a lot like Mean Girls. There's the rich, beautiful, shrewdly intelligent girls reigning over a private all-girl school. There's the outsider - the scholarship student, a daughter of refugees - being drawn into their orbit. In the hands of Alice Pung, though, Laurinda is a sharp observation of the power politics of teenage girls, the struggle of forming an identity when your public and private selves can't be one and the same, and even casual racism.

Alice Pung's writing blows my mind. It's one of those books I'd like to revisit with a writer's eye, in the hopes that I can learn from it. Her metaphors are concise but on point; she doesn't wax lyrical, she strikes at the heart of the matter with every observation Lucy makes. I wish I had that skill so I can describe to you how good she is.

At first, the pace of the book may seem slow. I spent a while wondering when things were going to start happening to Lucy, rather than around her. Then I realised that was deliberate, and I loved it. As Lucy herself mentioned, there was nothing random about her speech or silence. I saw myself in the way she silently observes her surroundings, and that's actually not something I often find in books.

Yes, Laurinda doesn't show female friendships in the best light, not until the book is almost over anyway, but it also takes teenage girls and their conflicts seriously. It shows why girls manipulate and bully and do other awful things, and why they often don't just have it out with their fists like boys do. I found it fascinating, while at the same time thanked my lucky stars that my old high school was never this bad.

I read this for #AsianLitBingo, and it's another example why ownvoices stories are important. Lucy's circumstances are different from mine, but in her family's hopes and their efforts to give her a better life, I heard echoes of mine. I cringed whenever she encountered casual racism or ignorance, because it's as familiar as Lucy's wary, somewhat-resigned, responses to it. I don't believe anyone who hasn't received racist comments can capture both the flippancy and the weight of such ignorant remarks as well as someone who has.

All in all, Laurinda is an intriguing, thoughtful, and at times scary book from a brilliant writer.

Reading this book contributes to the following challenges:

❥ Goodreads Challenge
❥ The Backlist Books Reader Challenge
❥ #AsianLitBingo

Title: Laurinda ❙ Author: Alice Pung ❙ Publisher: Black Inc. Books ❙ Source: Giveaway ❙ Release Date: November 2014

"Laurinda is an exclusive school for girls. At its hidden centre of power is The Cabinet, a triangle of girls who wield power over their classmates – and some of their teachers.

Entering this world of wealth and secrets is Lucy Lam, a scholarship girl with sharp eyes and a shaky sense of self. As she watches The Cabinet in action, and is courted by them – as she learns about power and repression – Lucy finds herself in a battle for her identity and integrity."


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