Title: American Panda
Author: Gloria Chao
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Summary (from Goodreads): 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?
American Panda is an authentic story that defies Asian stereotypes. The main character has a great voice, and she really fights for what she wants. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but the pacing and the humour didn’t entertain me.
This book tells the story of a Taiwanese-American student at MIT who is younger than her classmates. Her parents pretty much have her entire future planned out: become a doctor and get a Taiwanese husband. However, Mei is a germaphobe and has a crush on a Japanese boy. I loved how this book tackles Asian stereotypes and is filled with bits of Mandarin. While I can’t say firsthand if Mei’s experiences are realistic, American Panda definitely felt authentic to me.
I really enjoyed Mei’s character. She has many tough decisions to make about her future and must decide if she wants to follow her dreams and be disowned like her older brother or live a life that doesn’t interest her. Mei’s voice is very captivating, and she has a sense of humour, which I can always appreciate. She comes a long way as she figures out which path she wants to take, and it is so easy to root for her.
While I enjoyed this book, I did have a couple of issues with it. The pacing is a bit off, and the beginning is hard to get into. The transition between certain scenes is kind of choppy, and there are a lot of moments with sudden drama. Honestly, there are also a few scenes that seemed random to me, and it takes away from the impact of the story. American Panda is also described as “laugh-out-loud,” but I found some of the humour to be distasteful and immature. A few jokes and some sarcasm here and there are fine, but for me, the bathroom jokes are overkill.
American Panda is a realistic story about a Taiwanese-American girl’s experiences at university. The main character is fierce and easy to connect with. While this book has some great messages and themes, the pacing is off, and the level of humour wasn’t for me.
I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.