But the Girl

Jessica Zhan Mei Yu

“Having been Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina and Esther Greenwood all my life, my writing was an opportunity for the reader to have to be me…”

Shortly after flight MAS370 goes missing, scholarship student Girl boards her own mysterious flight from Australia to London to work on a dissertation on Sylvia Plath. Though she is ambivalent toward academia and harbors ideas about writing a post-colonial novel, if only she could work out just what that means, Girl relishes the freedom that has come with distance from the expectations and judgements of her very tight-knit Malaysian-Australian family. At last Girl has an opportunity to live on her own terms.

Unfolding across Girl’s time at an artist residency in Scotland as she makes friends and enemies alike in a world far removed from any she’s ever known, But the Girl is a wry and playfully philosophical coming of age novel that reveals the joys, embarrassments, pleasures, and agonies of trying to discover and understand who you are. Girl grapples with the long shadow of colonialism, the pressure of expectations in immigrant families, and the sometimes difficult fact that those closest to us remain the most unknowable.

Praise for But the Girl

"BUT THE GIRL is a vivid novel of consciousness with a delightful sense of play. Jessica Zhan Mei Yu writes with striking originality that combines the irreverent and the philosophical about the ambiguities and ambivalences of contemporary life. A wonderful new novel for a metamodern world."
Brandon Taylor, author of 'The Late Americans'

"Yu remakes the art of writing itself."


"Sharp, flecked with glints of bone-dry humour... It's compellingly poignant. BUT THE GIRL is a debut that heralds a skilled and singular new talent."

"A unique and meaningful novel: refreshingly unsentimental, written with a directness that is both self-effacing and wry. The voice sometimes recalls Lucia Berlin, JD Salinger or Lorrie Moore but it's entirely her own."
Sharlene Teo, author of PONTI

"A delicate investigation into intergenerational immigrant subjectivities... Written in a flowing, internal narration that occasionally moves into moments of not-quite-real, observations of the minutiae of everyday microaggressions build up to depict the internal landscapes that minorities must uncomfortably navigate."