Book: American Panda by Gloria Chao
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date Published: February 6th, 2018
Date Started: January 23rd, 2018
Date Finished:January 25th, 2018
An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
I should have written this review much much earlier, but life basically turned upside down (in the best of ways!) and was suddenly found with a to-do list that is hundreds of miles long.
But I think thats why I decided I need to pause and finally write my review for American Panda. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since I finished it, and it has earned a place in my heart alongside Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman. It makes my little Asian heart happy to see books about American-Asian teens and all of their struggles, ups and downs, happiness, and everything in between.
I’m gonna be honest here. I really needed this book when I went to college. And I’m glad that there will be teens in the future that will have a book like this when they go to college. I commiserated so much with Mei’s struggles with family expectations/traditions while trying to explore the world and creating her own legacy. I honestly think that if I had this book when I first started college, I would have felt like there was so much more to come and that there were others out there like me.
But personal story aside, I truly enjoyed this book. There were so many moments that just made my heart happy and actually made me crave hot chocolate at times. Good thing it was snowy when I read it! And at the same time, there were moments that really broke my heart. Chao created a story where I truly came to care for the characters and wanted nothing more than to see them happy.
This book reads pretty fast, as is usually the case when I read contemporaries. But it wasn’t just that it reads fast, but rather I was hooked into the story. Its just that situation where you come to care for the characters, and you want everything to turn out okay for them. Spoilers aside, the ending turned out to be something unexpected. In the best of ways, and it gave me so much hope.
I will always hold this book dear to my heart, and I’m so glad its out there in the world. Its one of those books that you feel will be important to others out there.
**I received an ARC of American Panda in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.