Title: American Panda
Author: Gloria Chao
Genre: Young Adult: Contemporary
Publication Date: 6th February 2018
My Rating: 3/5 stars
“If I lied, the real me would disappear.”
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?
I have mixed feelings about this book. I read American Panda whilst I was sick and whilst I did enjoy the book, there were some details that made me feel even sicker – I’ll delve into the details later.
“There was no right or wrong here. No morality. Just two roads, leading in different directions but both ending in heartbreak. Life was, as I was finding out, Choose Your Own Adventure with most of the fun stripped away”
THINGS I LIKED:
- Mei’s constant fight between choosing to honour her family or choosing what she wants to do for herself was something I could relate to, as I understand where she’s coming from. Though my culture doesn’t really have a sense of duty, the expectations that my parents have for me where pretty similar to Mei’s parents (though just toned down)
- I think Mei and Darren were good for each other, both as friends and as a couple, however, I think I did prefer them as friends because the chemistry wasn’t really strong between them
- There were some definite heartbreaking moments that made me emotional and also made me appreciate the life that I currently have
- I think the Gloria Chao’s representation of her experiences as a Taiwanese-American teenager, reflected in Mei, is important, and I just know that this book will be important to all those who are in a similar position as Mei.
“Once I stopped trying so damn hard to be someone else, I started to enjoy life. Being alone was hard, but better than feeling shitty about myself all the time”
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE:
- The medical descriptions. This was mostly because I was sick and nauseated for an entire week, and reading Mei’s description of what she saw only made me feel more nauseous.
- I kinda wished the books focused more on her life at MIT, because as a student about to go into her first year of uni, I would have liked to get a glimpse of life at uni. Sure we did get to see some moments, but I had hoped there would be more
- The pacing of the book was fine and the writing was easy to read, however, I found myself unable to connect with Mei, and that I didn’t really care about her character. Upon finishing the book, I knew that I wouldn’t reread the book because I just didn’t have any attachments to any of the characters.
Overall, I did enjoy this book and would definitely recommend this to those who are in need to a quick contemporary read, but for me personally, I won’t be revisiting the book. I know that sounds harsh but in order for me to reread a book, I have to have an emotional connection to the characters.
Have you read American Panda yet? If so, what did you think about it. Do you agree or disagree on any of my points? If you haven’t read it, are you planning to soon?