Book: American Panda by Gloria Chao
Published February 2018 by Simon Pulse|311 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library
Genre: YA Contemporary
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 absolutely loved this book! This is easily one of my favorites from this year, and I think it’s one everyone should read!
I loved Mei, and she was so easy to relate to. I think a doctor is not the best career path for her, and I’m glad she was finally able to speak up for herself. It can be hard going against a plan that’s been set out for you, and going against family can be hard. But Mei knew what she wanted to do, and took a huge risk in going against what her parents thought she should do.
I particularly liked the voicemails and emails we see from her family. They are very much involved in her life, and I do like that they want what’s best for her. They do want her to be successful, and while I don’t necessarily agree with some of their actions & behaviors, I do think they had really good intentions.
I felt so happy when I was reading American Panda, and something about it was comforting and warm, and made me want to hug someone.
*Random side note: I feel like I’d be one of those people you see walking around holding one of those free hugs signs. Seriously, if I weren’t so anxious and shy, I’d totally do that.
Back to American Panda, though. Mei is such an amazing character, and while she kept secrets for quite a while, you do see the toll it takes on her, and how hard it was to keep secrets from her family. I also loved seeing how dance was something she loved, and how happy it made her. Even though her parents weren’t happy with the path she decided to take, it did seem like she had some support in her brother and some friends. And it also seemed like her mom started to come around as well, which I thought was huge, considering her mom really seemed to have very strong ideas on how Mei should live her life.
We really see Mei struggle with having really strict parents (which I can sort of identify with, but obviously not completely) and how she dealt with their values and beliefs and her own. I laughed and smiled and quite honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t start crying. This is not a crying sort of book, but I can be sentimental.
At any rate, something about this book felt very personal, like Chao had experienced what Mei had. There is something honest and true about this book. It’s heartfelt, and while I haven’t experienced what Mei did in this book, I did see parts of myself in her. I feel like we would have gotten along really well, and she is someone I want to be friends with. She has her flaws, but we all do. That didn’t stop her from still being completely awesome.
5 stars! Mei is awesome, and I couldn’t help but love this book. It’s worth reading!