American Panda by Gloria Chao

February 8, 2018     jennzahbooknut     Book review

American Panda by Gloria ChaoAmerican Panda by Gloria Chao
Published by Simon Pulse on February 6th 2018
Pages: 320

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?

5 Stars

I’ll be the first to admit it; I am usually not a fan of contemporary. But I picked up American Panda one afternoon and the next thing I knew, it was 10 pm the same day, and I had finished it. Because — it’s THAT GOOD.

Right from the beginning, I was drawn to Mei – a bit of a child prodigy who has been fast-tracked into MIT at 17 years old. She’s funny, wry, awkward, nervous. All of it blends into one amazing main character. Navigating through the pages with Mei as my guide was incredibly refreshing –  i loved her descriptions of her body sweat and germophobia. She’s one of those once in a lifetime characters that you know, love, and want to be — and in some instances, ARE.

This book focuses on Mei fighting a large internal battle — wanting to be the daughter her parents want her to be but also trying to be the MEI that she wants to be – and how hard it is to play both parts. The story is infused with her amazing Chinese culture throughout, and I just adored following her journey from beginning to end. You feel all the emotions as the story rolls along – the fear/nervousness she has with her parents, the awkwardness she has with Darren, her crush, the utter joy she feels when she’s doing the one thing she really does love – dancing.

Overall, I LOVED it. I’m finding myself drawn to books with a strong female Asian main character – and Mei is definitely no exception.  If you loved books like THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE or THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO — make sure you check out this book.

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