And I’m off – Task #11 (a YA novel) of the Read Harder Challenge is complete. For this one I chose Laurinda by Alice Pung, mostly because I was reading it when the challenge begun, rude not to use it really.
“Laurinda is an exclusive school for girls. At its secret core is the Cabinet, a trio 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 at work, and is courted by them, Lucy finds herself in a battle for her identity and integrity.”
What the above blurb doesn’t mention is that, not only is Lucy a scholarship student, she’s also Asian, which adds further complexity to her struggles at Laurinda.
I loved this book; it felt like Heathers meets Looking for Alibrandi. I thought Pung did a brilliant job of describing life at a private school – the characters were scarily real, the situations were genuine and the dialogue was spot on. I actually found some of it quite difficult to read because it took me straight back to high school, and straight back to how it felt to be in awe of people and also completely terrified of them at the same time. This description of the Cabinet totally nails it for me: “They were like three big albino rats in a cage full of brown mice. You wanted to be close to the glorious creatures, not only because they were so compelling, but also because you hoped if they smelt your familiar scent often enough, they would not eat you.”
I also really liked how the ‘race issue’ was dealt with in the book – obviously, Lucy’s race was an issue, and there are some great scenes highlighting the kind of casual and underlying racism that is rife in Australia, but I never felt like it was the main focus of the story. Lucy’s struggles were about so much more than just race – as she herself said “we were teenagers in the exact same way they were”.
The only criticism I have is that, at times, some of the characters felt more like caricatures than actual people, particularly some of the girls’ mothers. But that is a very minor complaint, and having such extreme characters did provide some balance for the more ‘normal’ people in the story.
All in all, this was a great way to kick off the reading challenge – let’s just hope every task is this enjoyable.