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Jade and Emerald (Michelle See-Tho, Vintage)

Winner of the 2023 Penguin Literary Prize, Jade and Emerald is a portrait of what it means to grow up caught between two cultures. Lei Ling Wen is an Australian-born soon-to-be 13-year-old who is constantly bickering with her strict Chinese-Malaysian mother. The tension in this tenuous relationship only intensifies when Lei Ling befriends the socialite Gigi Nu, an elegant and wealthy woman who takes Lei Ling under her wing. From this point forward, debut author Michelle See-Tho takes us into a luxurious adventure narrated in the naïve and hopeful voice of a teenager trying to figure out who she is and where she comes from. See-Tho’s compelling writing transports the reader back to adolescence and all the dreams, joys, and pains that come with it. However, the book’s true strength lies in the mother-daughter dynamics, which are intensified by cultural conflicts I think could be described as typical in first-generation immigrant families. Lei Ling’s relationship with her mother is imbued with depth and authenticity, underpinned by See-Tho’s Chinese-Malaysian background. The novel will appeal to fans of One Hundred Days by Alice Pung, Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, and Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi. Jade and Emerald is a wonderful escape into the late 90s, a mood-lifter packed with cultural insights, which will induce binge-reading.

Books+Publishing reviewer: Nadia Heisler is a CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) writer originally from Brazil with a background in journalism. Books+Publishing is Australia’s number-one source of pre-publication book reviews.


Category: Reviews