A teen finds that attendance and acceptance at an elite school are wildly different experiences.
Lucy Lam’s parents are ethnic Chinese immigrants to Melbourne, Australia, via Vietnam. Her father works at a carpet factory, and her mother cranks out hundreds of garments from her workshop in their garage while her baby brother (nicknamed the Lamb) plays nearby. When Lucy unexpectedly wins a competition for the inaugural Equal Access scholarship to prestigious Laurinda Ladies’ College, everyone assumes the superior education she receives there will help her lift up her family economically. As Lucy confides in a series of letters to Linh, her closest companion, however, life at Laurinda is shot through with careless luxury, countless microaggressions, and extracurricular expectations that are nearly impossible for Lucy to fulfill. Three powerful white girls known as the Cabinet seem to take Lucy under their wing, but she perceives how toxic they are to both fellow students and faculty they deem unworthy. Observing the cruelty and home lives of The Cabinet, Lucy begins to see her life in suburban Stanley—where treats from the dollar store count as fancy and her family eats dinner together on the floor using newspaper for a tablecloth—as both hopelessly shabby and something worth protecting fiercely. Lucy’s voice is highly literary, her observations keen, and her self-awareness sometimes actively painful.
A bracing, enthralling gut-punch and an essential read for teens, teachers, and parents alike. (Fiction. 13 & up)