Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Publication Date: February 6, 2018 by Simon Pulse
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Source: FFBC Tours
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 received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
American Panda follows Mei, a 17 year old Taiwanese-American who is starting her first semester at MIT. Throughout the story Mei struggles with finding a balance between two cultures, which traditions to hold on to and which to let go of, and how to be her own person at school away from her parents.
“I’m Chinese-American. America has a culture too. Why can’t I identify with that also? What if I identify with it more?”
I really enjoyed reading his book. I felt connected to Mei and could definitely feel and understand her emotions. As well as connecting with the character, I learned about Mei’s culture and how traditions can vary amongst families. I think it’s important that there’s a passage in the book about culture and how it’s varied, it’s super important for people to know that just because people have the same ancestry or culture, the way they incorporate those into their lives can be very different.
One thing that surprised me was how emotional this story is. I thought it was going to be a light hearted, fluffy contemporary, but there were some serious and difficult moments. It was sad to read about the guilt Mei feels because she does not want to live up to some of her parents expectations of her, and that she feels guilty for hanging out with her brother.
My favorite part of the book was seeing how Mei and her mother’s relationship changes throughout Mei’s first year away from home. I know it’s normal for parent/children relationships to change once children leave home, but it was a little different in this story because of the more collectivistic culture and because Mei is starting college a year early.
I loved the romance, it felt authentic to me. Mei and Darren’s relationship was cute and realistic. You see her struggle because this being the first guy she’s interested in pursuing romantically, and like with other family issues you can feel Mei’s guilt for being interested in someone her parents don’t approve of.
“His thumb tasted like soap. Not the most appetizing, but there was nothing hotter than a man who washed his hands regularly.”
Mei loves dancing, and you can really tell based on how descriptive the parts about dancing are. I like how it was used as a way of self-care. Not only does Mei enjoy teaching dance, but she enjoys dancing for herself, and is something she does when she’s stressed out or upset. I wish there were more descriptions of Mei teaching dance classes, it’s mentioned a couple of times, but I wish it was brought up more often.
Overall this was such a cute and emotional story, and I can’t wait to read whatever Gloria Chao comes out with next!