Length: 320 pages
An incisive, laugh-out-loud 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 pre-approved 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’m so, so, so unbelievably happy I was able to get a copy of this book in my hands. AMERICAN PANDA is an authentic, emotional, and wonderful piece of #ownvoices literature, and everyone, especially Chinese-American teenagers, needs to read this book.
AMERICAN PANDA follows Mei, as she undergoes her first year at university. Her parents push for her to become a doctor, to not date, to follow everything on their master plan for her. Filled with modern Chinese culture, superstitions, and Chinese phrases, this book was an genuine representation of being a Chinese-American teenager in 21st century America.
I adored Mei – she’s fiercely independent yet torn between her parents’ expectations and what she wants from her life. She’s funny and quirky and I could relate to her so much throughout this novel. I also loved Darren – he’s sweet and understanding (unlike the boys I’ve met at college), and I enjoyed all of Mei’s interactions with him. There was some family drama that escalated to some unexpected heights, but I still loved the way that Chao represented Mei’s family. Mei’s brother, Xing, is disowned but I adored watching Mei and Xing slowly rekindle their love for each other throughout the novel.
Overall, I can’t get over how amazing this novel was. I finished AMERICAN PANDA in a day, and I’m itching to read more of Gloria Chao’s novels. This is undoubtedly one of my new favorite novels, and I’m excited for the world to meet Mei.
Thank you to Simon for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.