School as Hell…

LaurindaLaurinda by Alice Pung

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lucy Lam wins an inaugural scholarship to Laurinda, an exclusive girls school, and it is an eye opening experience for her – and for us. From a migrant family living in the “poor” part of town, Lucy struggles to fit in and find her place at her new school. A group of girls called The Cabinet run things at Laurinda – get on their wrong side and pay the price. This group reminded me of The Heathers in the movie, Heathers, and also the Plastics in Mean Girls. I think the girls in Pung’s novel are MUCH worse, but it will give you an idea of the kind of people Lucy has to deal with. While she loves her family dearly, Lucy struggles with feeling embarrassed by them and the way they all live.
While she navigates this shaky existence, Lucy has an internal monologue with her best friend, Linh, which gives the reader insight into how she is feeling and reacting to things. Linh seems to have stopped speaking to Lucy since she started at Laurinda, and there are hints it is connected to how she has changed since becoming a student there. Right towards the end of the book we find something out about Linh (no spoilers here, promise), and perhaps I am clueless, but it came as a wonderful surprise to me.
I loved this book. Having attended a government high school I knew about cliques, but I was unaware of how deep they can run in a private school setting. This novel struck me as terrifyingly true to life, and certainly friends I have spoken to who DID attend such schools confirmed this was pretty accurate in many ways.
This is a wonderful novel – scary, but wonderful.

For ages 13 and up.

The sky’s the limit

Pieces of SkyPieces of Sky by Trinity Doyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tears in my cereal this morning as I finished Trinity Doyle’s debut novel. What a moving story. Lucy’s brother, Cam, drowned a couple of months ago. Before that, Lucy was a champion backstroker. Now, she can barely look at the pool, let alone get into the water. Her whole life has been the pool, but now she must find other things to fill it. Drifting aimlessly, she is drawn to her ex-best-friend, Steffi, who has turned into a bit of a wild child. There is also Evan, the new boy in town, who Lucy can’t stop thinking about. Complicating things is Cam’s best mate Ryan, for whom Lucy carries a smouldering torch.
One day as she goes through Cam’s things looking for answers, Lucy finds his mobile phone. Someone has been sending cryptic poetic messages to it – seemingly romantic messages. Lucy is determined to find out who the mystery texter is and along the way finds out more about her brother – and herself – than she bargained for.
I found the developing relationship between Lucy and Evan very believable in this novel. Evan is just the right blend of cool and nerdy and intriguing, whilst Lucy is messed up, lost, smart and looking for love. I also loved Lucy’s caring, distant, flawed parents. Her mum is devastated by the loss of her son – not knowing how to take a step forward. Her dad reminded me of my own father – head down and focus on anything except the huge hole in his life with his son gone.
This is a beautiful first novel, full of emotion, raw and pure, with a lyrical and uplifting ending. Read it. It will make you love life more.

For ages 14 and up