"White Ivy," | Reviewed by Susan Ferguson
“White Ivy: A Novel,” by Susie Yang, is a coming of age story as well as a drama with romance and suspense. It’s the story Ivy Lin, born in China. Her parents came to America when she was two, leaving her behind with her grandmother Meifeng. When Ivy is five she joins her parents and new brother in a low-income area outside of Boston. Ivy grew up in a home that was long on punishment and short on affection.
When her grandmother joined the family in the United States, she taught Ivy how to shoplift and cheat. Ivy learned English quickly and spent much time in the library. She was at the top of her class in elementary school, but in sixth grade she was sent to a private school, Grove Preparatory School, where her father worked as a computer technician.
Ivy was envious of the American lifestyle and would do anything to assimilate. She becomes obsessed with her privileged classmates, especially Gideon Speyer. Ivy becomes very shrewd, doing whatever it takes to achieve the lifestyle she’s dreamed of. She has no morals, is a manipulator and liar making her a character hard to like. Ivy’s only true friend is her neighbor Roux. He knows who she really is.
When Ivy is caught attending a party at Gideon’s house, her parents send her to China for the summer. When she returns, her parents have moved to New Jersey and all the people from Boston become history to her. It isn’t until Ivy is grown and working as a teacher in Boston that her past relations surface.
Ivy runs into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister. Once more Ivy sets her sights on Gideon. Soon Ivy is living her dream; dating Gideon, attending fancy dinners and spending weekends at the Cape with the Speyer family. Everything is going as planned until Sylvia’s boyfriend Roux shows up. He loves Ivy and threatens to expose her unless she tells Gideon the truth about them.
Ivy is faced with some major decisions that lead to suspense and twists. The twists work but are predictable, no big revelations or surprises. This coming of age story is also a story of relationships and a love triangle. Even though Ivy is an unlikeable character you still want to know how her journey will end.