YA contemporary lovers rejoice, because American Panda by Gloria Chao is out today! This book is absolutely adorable, it’s funny, and it’s full of important themes. Check out my full review below and be sure to pick up your copy today!
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 a perfect YA contemporary novel. It’s swoony and adorable, it’s funny, it’s rich in diversity, it has a focus on mental health, and it’s chock full of incredibly important themes. This book is simply not to be missed.
This book was one of my most anticipated reads going in to 2018, and it absolutely blew any expectations I had going in out of the water. Not only is this an incredibly important book, but it’s also wildly entertaining. I was glued to these pages from beginning to end, and it made for such a wonderful reading experience.
This is an own voices novel, and the story itself feels like such a sincere representation of the author’s own experience. Getting the opportunity to read about someone else’s experience is such a special thing, and that element made this such a special book.
The writing is both beautiful and witty. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments in this story that not only made the book a lot of fun to read but also made Mei a relatable and likable character. It’s rare to find a book that makes you laugh so much while also incorporating such important themes, and this book does that perfectly.
I loved having the opportunity to experience this story through Mei’s perspective. She is such a great character. As I already said, she is likable and relatable. She has flaws, and she just feels so human. She read very much like a real person and not just a book character, and her character arc was beautifully executed.
Family is a very crucial theme in this book, and Chao did such a great job of creating the family in this story. It’s rare in literature to get to see an entire family (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) incorporated into the story, and including them really enhanced the story and made it an even more rich and immersive experience for the reader. This family absolutely came to life, because each character was so well-developed.
The romance in the story is adorable. It’s sweet and swoony and Chao does a great job of incorporating it throughout the story without allowing it to overpower the themes of the novel.
Another element of the story that I loved was that this is YA story of a college experience. That is definitely something unique in YA. We don’t get to see a lot of it, and it was so much fun. I would love to be able to read more books like this.
This book is our May read for the YA and Wine book club, and I’m so thrilled to get to discuss this book with other avid YA readers. I truly cannot recommend it highly enough.
Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. AMERICAN PANDA is her debut novel, coming out February 6, 2018 from Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.
Gloria currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out.
Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at gloriachao.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @gloriacchao.
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