Laurinda by Alice Pung
Let me first declare that this novel was like a time machine that shot me straight back to my own years in middle secondary school. On one level Laurinda is about a young girl’s struggle for identity and belonging, but it quickly deepens into a candid and powerful exploration of family, culture and class.
Fifteen-year-old Lucy is vibrant, cheeky and sharp-witted. Popular with her peers at Christ Our Saviour College, she’s just one more migrant kid from a humble family making friends in a school with cultures as diverse as the United Nations. But when a scholarship lands her in a prestigious and exclusive girls’ school, Lucy struggles to find her voice in a world of privilege and entitlement. Intimidated and isolated, Lucy begins to drift away from her family and friends. She even begins to doubt her own identity.
In order to regain her voice, Lucy must find the courage to define herself anew. Those who have faced discrimination and prejudice will recognise the truth of Lucy’s story, but they’re probably not the ones who really need to hear it told. It is those of us who take our fortune and privilege for granted that I wish would read this powerful book. Highly recommended for ages 12 and up.
Athina Clarke is a Children’s & YA Book Specialist at Readings Malvern.