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The Coconut Children

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  606 ratings  ·  83 reviews
Fall in love twice, just to make sure.

Sonny and Vince have always known each other. It took two years of juvie, a crazy mother and a porn stash for them to meet again.

Sonny is a sixteen-year-old girl who watches the world from her bedroom window and has a habit of falling hopelessly in love with just about anyone. Vince is a sixteen-year-old boy who became a legend after h
Published December 10th 2017 by Sydney Story Factory
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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Michael Livingston
Mar 18, 2020 rated it liked it
This a sweet and gritty love story set in late 90s Cabramatta (I'm guessing the time-frame actually), among the children of Vietnamese refugees. Pham is astonishingly young and disgustingly talented and weaves a pretty complex web with assurance. The writing was sometimes a bit overblown for me and the narrative didn't always feel entirely realistic, but it's vivid and moving and a welcome new voice in Australian literature.
Giselle A Nguyen
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“The coconut children on the trees need to drop into the water. That way the ocean can carry them to another island, where they can grow.”

Cabramatta, 1998. Vincent Tran has returned after two years in juvie, and his childhood friend Sonny Vuong looks on from a distance at this boy she once knew so intimately, now an intriguing stranger. Her world is books and daydreams; his is drugs and violence. They are unexpectedly drawn back together by a series of strange events – a drunk grandma, a secret
Bel Rowntree
I ADORED this book. I adored the characters, the storyline, the setting, the perfect portrayal of teen angst and friendship, I adored the ending, ugh, it was just all so, so good.

The trauma and the violence is so masterfully etched in between the lines, some parts almost unbearable to read especially when you consider the true stories they surely have stemmed from.

It was poetic and dramatic and inspiring, a dance between past/present, the living/the dead and I can not stop thinking about it.

Apr 25, 2020 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia, c21st
Very disappointed by this. Very. I'm keen to see more diversity in publishing, but this book needed much better editing than it's had. As others have said here, it's overwritten:

From the chapter titled 'Caught in Guerilla Warfare on the Way to the Loo:
" Monday morning. Michelle, still drowsy and dreamlike from the night before, flaunted her hangover like a heavy, jewel-encrusted crown. Michelle with her fluttery, Herbal Essences hair, strands of midnight marigold picked up and kissed by the wind
The Anti-Social Influencer
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it

Call me Dorothy because I’ve been blown away. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Gary. ‘Coconut Children’ is an incredible debut from Vivian Pham, who wrote it when she was only sixteen. The writing is electric: simultaneously caustic and beautiful. There were sentences that absolutely floored me. There were sentences that made me smile and ache with how familiar they felt. A story of two neighbours: Sonny, awkward, strange, with a demanding mother and no romantic experience, and Vince, a secret poet
Trigger warnings: imprisonment, domestic violence, drug addiction, drug dealing, intergenerational trauma, rape (in the past), sexual assault (in the past), violence, assault, vomit, verbally abusive parent, animal abuse.

4.5 stars.

I've been intrigued by this book ever since it was revealed that the author wrote it at the age of 16 and that there was a bidding war over it. Also since I saw the cover, which is GORGEOUS.

I definitely didn't expect this to punch me in the feelings as hard as it di
Jaclyn Crupi
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Vivian Pham started writing her debut novel at 16 and here it is being published next week; she’s 19 now. Pham is a gifted storyteller and writer with a particular talent for dialogue, metaphor and similie. Her style is incredibly evocative and layered. She also uses humour incredibly well. There were some issues with pacing and plot but overall this is a hugely impressive debut from a fresh and vibrant new voice.
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: auslit
My first #APIHeritageMonth read is by a Vietnamese-Australian author - THE COCONUT CHILDREN by Vivian Pham. The first draft of this impressive debut was completed when Pham was only 17, and published at 19! It came out the day we left Australia in March so I couldn’t snap up a print copy, but jumped for joy when I saw my Aussie library app offered the audiobook.
“The Coconut Children follows Sonny and Vince, two Vietnamese Australian teenagers living in 1990s Cabramatta. Vince has just returned
Permanently 23
Jun 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Having grown up in the part of Sydney when this book is set, I was super keen to read it. I absolutely loved the diversity factor. Australian books with this flavour (especially set in Western Sydney) are hard to find - publishers take note...
While it’s overwritten in parts (some language needed tightening and perhaps reining in all the descriptions) it’s quite beautiful in parts. I enjoyed the way Sonny and Vince danced around each other and had a shared history - this book is, in many ways, ab
Kylie Porter
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written. The story content is at times confronting and violent, but the writing is true peotry throughout. For me this book was an eye opening account of the trauma and struggles immigrants go through to find their way to our shores. The trauma of past generations being lived out through their children and their children, too. Does your history shape you? I would say yes! after reading this
Read Me Another Story
Sonny is a 15 year old daughter of immigrant parents in the south-western Sydney of Cabramatta and this is set in the late 90’s. Sonny has a habit of falling in love with anyone and her attentions land on Vince.

Vince has returned from a recent bout at juvie and although he has known Sonny forever they suddenly get to know each other a lot better.

Summary 📖

Full disclosure that I was a schoolgirl in western Sydney in the mid-late 90s so this plot felt really relatable to me based on my own experien
Laura de Vet
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book today. Best book I have read in a LONG TIME. The author was sixteen when she wrote it. This still blows my mind.
It will no doubt become a core high-school read alongside ‘Looking for Alibrandi’. I’ve no doubt it will also become an iconic Aussie film in years to come. It’s the type of book you could read until sunrise if you knew you didn’t have to get up in the morning to look after your kids. Read it, is all I really have to say.
Kat Schrav
Apr 18, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5. I really wanted to love this book. The story follows the intergenerational trauma that has filtered through the families of teen neighbours, Sony and Vince. Separately and together they navigate being 16 in Cabramatta, Western Sydney, as their Vietnamese-Australian heritage seems to weigh down on them yet tie them together. I listened to this via Audible and found it hard to follow the storyline in places but Pham’s narrative made me compelled to continue. I would definitely recommend readi ...more
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am absolutely floored and so impressed that Vivian Pham was only 16 when she started writing The Coconut Children. This novel is truly beautiful. The language is so poetic and lyrical, with a unique rhythm. There's almost something magical about the words, reminiscent of Trent Dalton's Boy Swallows Universe. Teenage angst is portrayed so realistically, but with an added layer of the weight of familial and cultural history.

At first glance, Sonny and Vince are characters you might have read bef
Aug 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Was this truly written by a 16 year old??? Quite impressive for someone so young - the ability to put such insights onto a page seems to suggest a teenager beyond her years and I feel that this author is going to go far.
This is a sweet and angst ridden love story of two 16yo teenage neighbours set in the gritty Cabramatta region of Sydney. Sonny is a good studious girl and Vince has just spent 2 years in juvenile detention. After a chance meeting involving porn magazines, these two next door ne
This is a stunning debut and I can't wait to read whatever Vivian Pham writes next.
Sara Cole
Jun 15, 2020 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this! But unfortunately I didn’t.
This story took so long for me to read, too long for a 280 page novel. This story just did not grab me, it felt like a bit of a chore to read.
I do love the idea of this story.
I believe it is is vital for Australians to read stories that celebrate our rich and diverse culture.
Australia, as a young country, is home to people from all over the world and The Coconut Children is a story about adolescent Vietnamese Australians living in Cabramatta,
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This gritty imagining of young love, and the complexities that make up each of the characters is shared beautifully through the author's captivating storytelling. I loved the way the story was told predominantly from the views of each of the main characters, Vince and Sonny, but we, the reader, were also given snippets of information from minor character perspectives to be able to piece together the story a bit better, including what led characters to become the version of themselves that appear ...more
Cam Ly
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
I am surprised the publishers had a bidding war over this novel. It says a lot about the lack of diversity in the publishing world - succumbing to hype and staffed with monoculture types who have only a cursory knowledge of their subject matter. Cabra in the 90s was filled with either cruel, numbed by heroin, black hearted characters or those struggling against the deep waters of poverty, barely able to get their heads up for air. There were no angels. Only devils and the damned. Ms Pham has cre ...more
Those who follow my reviews know that I am a fan of a clever turn of phrase, and oh my gosh, Vivian Pham can do a clever turn of phrase. So for example, "Talking to her was like talking to a wall that could throw bricks at you." or the wonderful description of a crush: "In her mind, their affair was so artfully conspired that they had managed to keep it a secret even from reality." or the chilling "Sometimes he didn’t come home at all, not for days, but even this did not give Vince any peace. So ...more
Camila - Books Through My Veins
I started listening to The Coconut Children's audiobook, but I didn't make it past the first hour because I felt I was missing too much. I'm glad I persevered, giving the physical book a go proving that, in my opinion, audiobooks are not always the best way to enjoy a book.

It's astonishing how Pham was a teenager when she wrote this book, proving that talent does not discriminate against age. Pham's writing style is profound, moving and utterly mesmerising. I was not only fascinated by Sunny an
Emma Harbridge
May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
A friend suggested this book to me, advertising it with the line, “You can tell how much you mean to someone by the amount of ginger they make you eat when you’re sick.” This book really got me, can I tell you. Vivian Pham is so honest in her writing, especially when exploring themes of care in POC families, behaviourism interwoven into educational systems, and simply the chaotic and heart wrenching experience of growing up in the Western suburbs. It’s a wonderful feeling reading something that ...more
Giovanna Walker
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
Some beautiful writing, more poetic than prose. It conjures up vivid imagery. The opening describing the gardens of limes, dragon fruit and mangoes. It sounds like another world - especially here in Australia. It was also good to see another perspective of growing up in Australia, a new voice (not just the white ones).
I did take issue with the editing - the Americanisms - or perhaps this edition is aimed at the American market? 'Sidewalk', 'Candy', 'trolley cart'? No. A little thing, but. it di
Emily (em_isreading)
With The Coconut Children Pham has accomplished what many more experienced writers attempt and fail. This is a sweet and gritty coming of age love story, set against a background of racism, mental health struggles, abuse and neglect. This is a gentle but emotional debut novel, full of the tiny details of the Vietnamese migrant life in Australia. Pham is an accomplished story teller, with an evocative style and talent for character development and depth. There are great moments of humour, which w ...more
Rebecca Mary
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit - the title and gorgeous front cover are the main reasons why I bought this book. But, it turned out to be a great choice!

I absolutely devoured it in about 24 hours, lapping up every word, enjoying the opportunity to read about lives and experiences that I know so little about.

The blurb describes it as "urgent, moving and wise" and that is 100% accurate. I would definitely recommend this book!
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's stunning that the author was so young when she wrote this book. She writes so well about the hopes and dreams of adolescence, but also succeeds in elaborating on the histories and inner lives of the adults in the story too. It's not a light read, but it's extremely readable and I enjoyed that it took me out of my bubble of suburban Sydney into another, very different corner of the city.
Dee Slattery
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an impressive read from such a young author (19 years) - insightful, honest, charming and filled with feeling. I was hooked on the unfurling of Sonny and Vincent’s relationship, yet a little disappointed with the ending ~ I wanted more!! Read it, you’ll know what I mean!
Barbara Burstall
Jul 19, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mpl, gave-up-on
Gave up on this book, read like young adult fiction, and just made no sense
Panda Widyastuti
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stunning, effortless, poetic writing that brought me to tears multiple times. What a gift.
Dana McPherson
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Engagingly nostalgic, Pham calls to mind the faltering, awkward attraction of teens while she explores familial love, tension and hope. Set in mid-90s Western Sydney, she has cultivated interesting and dynamic characters which extend through internal characterisation to develop significantly in the second half of the narrative.
I found some elements jarring, occasional incontinuities did interrupt the prose (how is the character eating a burger now when they just ordered chicken nuggets?) and som
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