Monday, August 14, 2017

[Review] Laurinda by Alice Pung

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Publication (dd/mm/yyyy)22/10/2014
Publisher: Black Inc. Books
Pages: 352
Source: Library
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity


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My Rating

My thoughts

I understand now. I understand why Laurinda is so well-known in Aussie YA, why it has been mentioned time and again as one of the most prolific high school novels. After having read Alice Pung's short story In A Heartbeat in the #LoveOzYA anthology Begin, End, Begin, and revelling in the unique format in which it was written, I knew with absolute certainty that it was finally time for me to read this book. And I enjoyed liked it, but it was a bit tough at times to stomach.

Laurinda follows Lucy Lam, who has earned a scholarship to prestigious Laurinda, an elite private girl's high school in Melbourne, and all the struggles that come with adapting to a new school. Not only does she struggle with keeping on top of the more demanding workload - she is also subject and witness to bullying at the hands of the Cabinet, a powerful trio of girls who run the school.

Pung's debut novel is written in the form of letters, in past-tense first-perspective. This was an incredibly interesting way to tell the story, since I was constantly asking myself "Who is Linh?" I was quite awed by the level of ingenuity in this. At its core, Laurinda is about Lucy's discovery of self and her own identity, and I feel like this would be a really interesting character study.

Lucy was a fairly easy character to like. She is a hard-working teenage girl with a good head on her shoulders. I empathised with her situation, particularly with regards to her difficult home life (like looking after her baby brother "Lamb"!) and how that impacts on her high school experience. It must also have been so tiresome to be singled out as like this "charity case", as the only "povvo" (and Asian), a scholarship kid in this prestigious high school. When the Cabinet takes more of an interest in her, you can already tell that things are going to go badly - I cringed when her parents, particularly her dad, saw any of them. Embarrassment! But more than that, she stays true to her beliefs and morals, and does not allow that school to destroy her - her strength, determination and tenacity infinitely admirable.

There were some interesting characters at her school, but I don't feel like we got to know them well enough for me to form much of an opinion. I particularly liked Mr Sinclair, Ms Vanderwerp and Trisha.

There isn't much romance, which I liked. There was a boy that Lucy liked, and there are hints that they may get together in the future, but I like that there wasn't any focus placed on it. One of her classmates also has a crush on one of the male teachers.

Laurinda could very easily have been written off as a Mean Girls rip-off or some such, but it is so much more than that. It explores social status and how power can lead to toxic behaviour. It explores identity and finding oneself in the face of adversity. It's about friendship, family and hardship. Lucy's year at Laurinda is memorable and shines a spotlight on some of the behaviours we can see at all-girls high schools.


First lines:

"Dear Linh, Remember how we used to catch the 406 bus after school, past the Victory Carpet Factory and the main hub of Sunray, through to Stanley? What an adventure, we used to think then. What a waste of time, looking back now. It was a waste of time because the bus would always worm its way back t Stanley, following exactly the same route, stopping at the same places and collecting the same people, who did the same things every same day.
Favourite lines:
"A wounded ego and a wounded heart are the same thing when your love is unrequited. (109)
"How strange high school is, that our reputations are in the hands of people we barely know, people we see every day and even sit close enough to that we can smell their sweat and see the bra straps falling from their short-sleeved summer uniforms . . . Popularity - and power - was based on things that could not be seen or felt - on ideas planted in other people's minds. (119)

AUSTRALIA: A&R | Booktopia

INTERNATIONAL: Book Depository

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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