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The story's protagonist, Ivy, isn’t the typical heroine. She’s a master of deceit, determined to fit into the white Protestant community she’s growing up in just outside of Boston.
As a Chinese immigrant, she strives for the glamorous life she associates with being American — through any means necessary. This includes frequent stealing, which her grandmother taught her how to do as a young girl.
Ivy's life as she knows it is flipped on its head when her mother discovers her bad habits and sends her back to China.
Years later and back in Boston, Ivy’s obsession with assimilation culminates in her childhood crush, Gideon, who, to her, epitomized everything sparkly about America. He and his family appeared to have it all, but when she reunites with him as an adult, the reader finds cracks in this perfect façade.
If you enjoyed the novel, Yang recommends five of her favorite books for readers to dive into next.
"Naomi" centers around the obsessive love of 28-year-old Joji for Naomi, a young teenager and waitress living in post-WWI Tokyo. For Joji, a businessman from a wealthy Japanese farming family, Naomi is the physical embodiment of the Western culture he holds on a pedestal. To win her, he creates a plan to whisk Naomi away from her life. However, it is only after first adopting and finally marrying Naomi that Joji realizes the naive girl he imagined his wife to be was simply a fantasy in his head.
Ottessa Moshfegh's 2018 book is about a recent Columbia grad living in New York City in 2000. She seems to have it all, living off her inheritance, dating a boy who works on Wall Street and working an easy job at an art gallery. However, the narrator is far from OK.
The unnamed protagonist spends a year taking an absurd concoction of drugs prescribed by a horrible psychiatrist in an attempt to heal her, and through that experience, the author explores the importance of feeling alienation rather than numbing yourself to it.
From New York Times bestselling author Elena Ferrante, "The Lying Life of Adults" is about Giovanna, a teenager coming of age in a divided Naples, Italy. Giovanna's dad tells her that she looks more and more like her aunt, a woman he despises, every day. As she explores two very different sides of the same city looking for her aunt, she struggles to find answers about the truth of who she is.
The book is a suspense novel about the lies parents tell their kids. At times hilarious and gut-wrenching, Ferrante's novel breaks down society's impossible ideals of beauty and behavior.
Edward St. Aubyn has spent more than 20 years of his life writing the story of Patrick Melrose. In the series of novels, he dissects the declining English upper class, exploring themes of greed, amorality and cruelty. Follow Patrick from childhood abuse to a harrowing battle with addiction as an adult with trials, tribulations and triumphs in between.
When Nick Guest moved into the attic room of the Feddens' family home in London's Notting Hill in 1983, he had no idea how much his life would be altered by the rising fortunes of the glamorous family. As he is immersed in this new world, he gets caught between two contrasting love affairs. Nick finds himself pursuing beauty obsessively while his friends seek out money and power.
A sharp social satire, Hollinghurst's book is full of witty observations about politics, society and family.
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For more book recommendations, check out:
- Bookmark this list! 34 books for the avid reader in your life
- Jasmine Guillory shares 6 books to refresh your fall reading list
- 15 diverse children's and young adult books recommended by kids