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This November, Jenna Bush Hager has a juicy, fun pick for the Read With Jenna book club. She chose Susie Yang's debut novel, "White Ivy," as her monthly selection.
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 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.
Book of the Month is a subscription-based book club that delivers hardcover books to your door at an affordable price. The first month is $9.99 with the code “READWITHJENNA,” and after that, it’s $14.99 a month.
Each month, subscribers choose one of the five featured titles of the month with the option to add-on up to two additional books for $9.99 each. As of Jan. 2020, the #ReadwithJenna pick will be available as an add-on option for subscribers. You can easily pause your subscription at any time or skip a month and roll your credit from one month to another. Just so you know, TODAY has a relationship with Book of the Month Club, so we make a share of revenue from purchases and subscriptions to Book of the Month Club.
"I’m really drawn to stories with anti-hero protagonists," Yang told TODAY. "When I knew that I wanted to create that kind of character, the first line of the book came to me."
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. On the outside, he and his family had it all but when she reunites with him as an adult, the reader finds cracks in this perfect façade.
Yang said that writing Gideon's character was the hardest for her.
"It’s really hard to write a character that is supposed to be idealized but I didn’t want him to appear remote or kind of mysterious to the reader," said the debut novelist. "It was the balance of wanting the reader to understand who Gideon was but Ivy to not have the understanding of him."
Jenna said, "While I always rooted for Ivy and empathized with her, I didn’t always like her or agree with her choices."
The TODAY co-host is confident the coming-of-age novel will lead to important conversations about otherness, ambition and where one looks for happiness.
Yang added that her story may feel familiar to "anybody who’s ever felt like an outsider."
"Whether that’s an immigrant, or whether that’s an issue of class, or even just going to private school for the first time. I feel like it is that sense of looking into a group that you are not familiar with and trying to assimilate. I think that theme of otherness is throughout the whole novel."
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For more book recommendations, check out:
- 5 books to read if you loved "Leave the World Behind" by Rumaan Alam
- The 30 best books to gift in 2020
- 15 diverse children's and young adult books recommended by kids