Release Date: 6th February 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
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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?
American Panda was a pretty solid debut. It was high on everyone’s most anticipated lists because it’s about a Taiwanese-American teenager who goes to college and tries to balance life, family, and two different cultures. I really enjoyed it, and I’d be interested in seeing what Chao comes out with next.
Admittedly, I did find the writing to be a little disjointed. There was a lot of jumping around from scene to scene, which I’ve noticed is quite a common occurrence in debut books. I had the same issue with Dear Martin. It wasn’t enough to make me dislike the book because it had other things going for it, but I think the writing had a lot of room for improvement.
From what I’ve seen, the Taiwanese-American representation seems to be decent? I can’t speak from experience, obviously, but people from the same or similar cultures have said so. But anyway, I loved reading about the mix of cultures, and Chao provided a lot of insight there.
I loved Mei, the main character, and the focus was almost 100% on her instead of the love story, which was A+. The romance wasn’t overbearing at all.
So overall, while I feel like the writing style let the book down a bit, I did really enjoy it.