Book: American Panda
Author: Gloria Chao
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: February 6th 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary
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 amazing story about Mei, a Taiwanese-American girl that has to straddle two cultures. Mei is an interesting and relatable main character and I think this book does a very good job of showing her struggle trying to live up to her parents expectations, but also wanting to follow her own dreams and desires.
The focus of this book is definitely Mei’s relationship with her family. Mei’s parents are so strict that in order to not dissapoint them or make them angry, Mei stops thinking for herself. So, it was amazing to witness her character devolpment as she finds the strenght to make her own decisions in the course of the book. It was also wonderful to see how that change in Mei impacted her mother and how it affected their mother/daughter relationship. I understand that this is not everyones experience, but I still think that this book manages to address in a very insightful way what it means to be a first generation immigrant for some young people.
Another great things about this, it’s the way in which the siblings relationship is handled and how reconnecting with her borther helps Mei realize that she needs to decide what is valuable and important to her, in terms of relationships and dreams.
This book also has a very cute romance that doesn’t take over the story, but it still a nice addition to it. The love interest, a Japanese-American guy, is really understanding and caring. Also, there’s a lovely female friendship, that it’s not exactly a central part of the story, but that adds an amazing elemento to it.
Overall, I found American Panda to be insightful and captivating, and I would recommend it if you like contemporaries focused on family dynamics and relationships.
Rating: 4 stars
Have you read this book? Are you planning on reading it? What diverse contemporaries would you recommend?
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