From an author Amy Tan calls “a gem,” this is a witty, highly acclaimed novel that’s “part Mean Girls, part Lord of the Flies” (The Bulletin, Starred review) about navigating life in private school while remaining true to yourself.
Lucy is a bit of a pushover, but she’s ambitious and smart, and she has just received the opportunity of a lifetime: a scholarship to a prestigious school, and a ticket out of her broken-down suburb. Though she’s worried she will stick out like badly cut bangs among the razor-straight students, she is soon welcomed into the Cabinet, the supremely popular trio who wield influence over classmates and teachers alike.
Linh is blunt, strong-willed, and fearless—everything Lucy once loved about herself. She is also Lucy’s last solid link to her life before private school, but she is growing tired of being eclipsed by the glamour of the Cabinet.
As Lucy floats further away from the world she once knew, her connection to Linh—and to her old life—threatens to snap. Sharp and honest, Alice Pung’s novel examines what it means to grow into the person you want to be without leaving yourself behind.
An NPR Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection
A Texas Tayhas Reading List Selection
A Bank Street College of Education and Children’s Book Committee Best Children’s Books of the Year with Distinguished Outstanding Merit
"A bracing, enthralling gut-punch and an essential read for teens, teachers, and parents alike." —Kirkus Reviews, Starred review
"This daring work with an authentic protagonist teaches important lessons about being yourself while navigating through life."—School Library Journal, Starred review
"Lucy’s struggle to find her place and sense of self will have a wide appeal for teen readers and is a welcome addition to the prep-school canon."—Booklist, Starred review
"Lyrical, enchanting prose from a narrator with perception so acute she cannot help but share it immerses readers into the very heart of every scene. This is highly recommended for classrooms and libraries [and] a superb choice for book discussion groups and world young adult literature survey courses."--VOYA, Starred review
"Part Mean Girls, part Lord of the Flies, and part Special Topics in Calamity Physics, this well-observed and unsentimental novel taps into what is primal within privileged adolescent girls."—The Bulletin, Starred review
"Lucy’s narration pulls readers alongside her uncertain navigation of two worlds, and we can’t help but cheer in solidarity as Lucy recognizes assimilation masquerading as inclusion, refuses to back down, and instead embraces who she is."—Horn Book Magazine
"In a novel filled with strong visual images, Pung draws a sharp contrast between authenticity and deception, integrity and manipulation. Against the vividly painted backdrops of two very different communities, she traces Lucy’s struggle to form a new identity without compromising the values she holds closest to her heart."—Publishers Weekly
Lucy Lam, a Vietnam War refugee, lives in a dilapidated Australian town among families like her own: poor, hardworking immigrants who dream of a better life for their children. Lucy gets a chance to make her parents proud when she wins a scholarship to a prestigious private school, but when she arrives at Laurinda, where "the beauty snuck up on you, like a femme fatale with a rock," it's like landing in another world, where her parents' work ethic doesn't apply. At Laurinda, power is valued over brilliance, and the school is ruled by a trio of girls, the "Cabinet," who brazenly torment weaker classmates and undermine teachers. Lucy is both repelled and fascinated by these girls, but to be accepted into their clique means leaving her old ideals behind. In a novel filled with strong visual images, Pung (An Unpolished Gem) draws a sharp contrast between authenticity and deception, integrity and manipulation. Against the vividly painted backdrops of two very different communities, she traces Lucy's struggle to form a new identity without compromising the values she holds closest to her heart. Ages 12 up.