Book Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Published in 2018 by Simon Pulse

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contenporary Fiction.

Page Count: 304

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Sypnosis:

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?

My Review (contains some spoilers):

I utterly loved this! I finished this book in two sittings, it was that addictive! I couldn’t get enough of this book, and I definitely can’t wait to read more of Gloria Chao’s books!

Even though I’m not Asian American, I feel like I could relate to Mei Lu, I mean, who doesn’t feel the need to please her parents and live up to their expectations?

But, what Mei Lu’s parents want for her and what she wants for herself are two different things! Mei tears herself up, desperately trying to be the daughter that her parents want, but she is terrified of germs, and doesn’t want to become a doctor! Like, honestly, my heart just ached so much for Mei, I felt so bad that she had to stifle her passion for dance, and initially she had to distance herself from a boy that interested her, because he was Japanese.

Might I add, I loved Xing’s character and the developing bond that he had with Mei, his sister. Initially at the start of the book, Xing was a disgrace who was disowned from the family for falling in love and subsequently marrying a woman that his parents didn’t approve of, but as the plot unraveled, and Mei was disowned from her family (so heart wrenching!), brother and sister’s bond grew, and their scenes were so precious! I love how Mei turned to him as her parents disregarded her.

But, there is so much more to it than that, like, Mei is so scared but stands up to her family, and its amazing! I was cheering her on so hard, and when Mei is watching an Asian American stand up Comedienne, who was too, shunned by her family and poking fun at Asian jokes, I couldn’t help but laugh along with them! And oh, Darren was so precious and I loved how much he cared about Mei! And oh, I tell you, Mei’s mother was a character I felt so sorry for! She never had a say in her marriage, and her husband didn’t even know how to love her, I swear. But I went from hating her, to feeling sorry for her, to being proud of her too. Why? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out πŸ˜‰

The writing was so raw, powerful and emotional! I couldn’t help but feel connected to Mei and feel like I went on this journey with her, and to be honest, I found reading about the different cultures to be so fascinating! I can happily admit that this book has been one of the most unexpected, fabulous, surprising reads that I have come across this year, and would happily count it as a new favourite!

Happy Reading,

Brooklyn.

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