About the author

Alice Pung

About the book

Judges' report

Set in the 1990s, before social media and mobile phones dominated adolescent social life, Alice Pung’s novel tells the story of Lucy Lam, a working-class child from a Chinese family who wins a scholarship to attend the ‘exclusive’ private girls’ school Laurinda. Here she encounters a group of girls known as The Cabinet: they are the school’s shiny trophies, and there’s also a suggestion of the political meaning of ‘cabinet’, for these girls have a lot of power in their small society.

The story is told in letters from Lucy to her old friend Linh, but Pung gives this tradition a clever and surprising twist. This novel is much more than just a story of high school; it explores the workings of class conflict and racial difference in a hothouse atmosphere and it’s an incisive critique of the limitations of a privileged upbringing. Formally categorised as ‘Young Adult’, this novel is an equally compelling read for adults, skilfully written and full of insight and ideas.

Further reading


‘There’s a strong sense that though ostensibly fiction, the novel is informed by real experiences, and the verisimilitude adds weight to the drama within and beyond the classroom. Pung continues to impress with her nuanced storytelling; Laurinda will surely resonate with anyone who remembers the cliquey, hierarchical nature of the playground.’ – Thuy On, Sydney Morning Herald

‘With Laurinda, Alice Pung has joined other Australian writers who are writing smart, funny YA fiction full of complex and engaging characters.’ – Madeleine Crofts, The Lifted Brow

‘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.’ – Athina Clarke, Readings


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