Willa Chen doesn’t like children all that much. But when she’s given the opportunity to nanny for the Adriens, a wealthy family in Tribeca, she jumps at the chance. She could use the money, sure, but she’s most drawn to the fact that the Adriens seem to be everything her family isn’t.
This sense of belonging is at the center of Win Me Something, a poignant debut novel by Joyland editor Kyle Lucia Wu.
Growing up in New Jersey as a biracial Chinese American girl, Willa felt hyper-visible and unseen at the same time. Her parents divorced when she was young, and both her mother and father had more children with subsequent partners. It wasn’t that Willa was abused or neglected, but she never experienced an abundance or love or support. “If you’re undercared for, but essentially fine, what do you do with all that hurt, the kind that runs through your tendons and tugs on your muscles, but doesn’t show up on your skin?” she wonders.
Living in New York City after college around 2014, Willa is unmoored. “It seemed like I often sat still while the pieces of my life rearranged around me, my only job to be stoic and unmoved, to come up for air and readjust once they stopped shifting,” she muses. While working as a waitress in Brooklyn, she gets the opportunity to nanny for Bijou, a wise-beyond-her-years 9-year-old whose parents, Nathalie and Gabe, work high powered jobs in finance and medicine, respectively.