American Panda

American Panda

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 ful...

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Title:American Panda
Author:Gloria Chao
Rating:
Edition Language:English

American Panda Reviews

  • Dani - Perspective of a Writer

    17-year-old Mei should be in high school, but skipping a grade was all part of her parent's plan for her to go to MIT become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, and produce a litter of babies. When she reconnects with her brother, Xing, the truth she's carefully constructed starts to waver and the truth leaks out: she hates germs, falls asleep in biology lectures, and has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decided

    17-year-old Mei should be in high school, but skipping a grade was all part of her parent's plan for her to go to MIT become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, and produce a litter of babies. When she reconnects with her brother, Xing, the truth she's carefully constructed starts to waver and the truth leaks out: she hates germs, falls asleep in biology lectures, and has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

    Mei’s life is about to become a dumpling with 3 spoonfuls. The skin bursting because it’s just too much! I felt for Mei and actually she’s pretty funny... If you want to know what it COULD BE like to be the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants in America then you NEED Mei's story. You may not relate at first if you're a rebellious one, because this girl isn't. She's well versed in the Asian guilt and its a huge motivator for her. Going away to college literally gives her a chance to be exposed to choices and a different way of making choices.

    While there is A LOT of family pressure in this story there is also lots of love and light and laughter! I don't want you to think this isn't totally balanced as Mei struggles to find her feet. I LOVED the people in her life, especially Darren, and ALL of the little minor characters that makes this book so heartfelt (I'm looking at you Nic!) Love DID NOT solve Mei's problems but it did challenge her and support her. AND THAT END!!! It all comes together in an unexpected way that made me love everyone in the story...

    I’m not a fan of this cover. I don’t really like covers with people on them, I want to imagine the character for myself. I do LOVE the title art and the doodles around the picture! I feel a cover with doodles like that with some dance flair and germ or medicine focus would be much better! And the title fit too though I almost think one about dumplings would be more fun?

    We literally learn about the traditions Mei is up against!

    Sprinkled through the book and also at the wedding and funeral we get a concentrated look at some Taiwanese culture. Mei does an excellent job helping us understand the position she's in between a rock and a hard place. She loves her parents and her culture but also comes to understand that her choices don't have to be the same her parents made.

    Mei developed relationships of all kinds!

    She has to go head to head with her roommate and is surprised by what she finds. She meets a boy... not a totally off limits white American boy nor the totally acceptable Taiwanese one, but another Asian who sort of understands and sort of doesn't. Then there is her brother and the woman he left their family for!! (Now this really gets tough...) And we have her totally traditional parents who believe time has stood still... or do they?! Plus there is the school mate from the past... And boy does it come together!

    Everything played out true to life but also in a hopeful way!

    I'm not sure that the fact this is an #ownvoices novel is why this reads so full and rich, so natural and right and so touching and heartfelt... but it certainly contributed to it!! It had hard topics like racism within the Asian culture as well as funny (but real) ones like germophobia. It touches on work, love and family as well as ones own prejudices! The end was hopeful but NOT perfect. Life isn't but Mei learned a skill to maneuver around that fact and still be happy. Isn't that what's MOST important!?

    Authenticity is terribly important, especially in a contemporary story. Hence why readers are on the lookout for #ownvoices. I don't think every story we read NEEDS to be own voices, but it certainly helps the story to feel natural and organic. A lot of that has to do with how full a story feels! Because it's something the author has experienced and had lots of interaction with they (hopefully) innately understand how much detail and elements the story needs to feel real.

    A story by its very nature only appears to mimic life. We can't possibly show ALL the nuances of life or character. But if enough details are LEFT OUT of the story then it feels shallow and may times stereotypical as there isn't enough detail for it to stand up under scrutiny. Proper motivations, foreshadowing (with a light hand) and developed character arcs are all a MUST.

    American Panda is so, so cute and authentic! Mei learned what it means to bridge her Taiwanese tradition with American desire. It meant sacrifice and taking bold (if scary) steps to preserve her choices! This is a must read and one of the best YA contemporaries of 2018.

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Authenticity

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ World Building

    BOTTOM LINE: Taiwanese traditions + Germophobia conspire to lay Mei out until she decides to MAKE A STAND!

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    You can find this review and many others on my book blog @

    . See my special perspective at the bottom of my reviews under the typewriter...

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    And a boost to a five, because I can't look at myself anymore for giving this a four.

    is ownvoices contemporary fic about a Taiwanese-American girl str

    And a boost to a five, because I can't look at myself anymore for giving this a four.

    is ownvoices contemporary fic about a Taiwanese-American girl struggling with her strict parents and with trying to carve her own path. And holy crap. It’s awesome.

    is chiefly a character study. This is a book that would fail without being underpinned by some freaking fantastic character development, and holy crap, is it.

    Her journey feels

    because she is

    - Mei works through germaphobia, her passion for dance, her relationship with her brother, and her relationship with Japanese Darren all at once. She even learns to work through her own prejudices against her roomnate, whose name I have somehow forgotten despite how much I love her character, and Ying-Na, whose purpose I will not spoil.

    The narrative of this book is perfectly balanced between exploring Mei’s struggle with strict parents and not condemming her cultural values as the cause of those parent issues. Gloria Chao is so quick to remind the readership that

    It’s so… subtly drawn. The story of

    works because it feels so effortless and

    , as if it’s coming straight out of the author’s heart. Gloria Chao's author’s note explictly says this is her personal story, but it’s unecessary:

    I’d honestly say the lead character’s development and the subtlety of the story is the best part, but there are so many moving parts helping the buildup. The perfect balance between comedy and dark elements. The pacing - I found the beginning a bit dull, but it picks up speed quickly. The relationship between Mei and Darren being basically the cutest thing. The focus on Mei's relationship with her brother, Xing. The relationship between Mei and her mom, which basically single-handedly makes

    worth the read.

    A part of me lowkey wants to give this a five and I am

    guys, you know I've been trying to read less contemporary because I'm so picky about it, but this...

    is going to be one of the best contemporaries of 2018. I never know how to do justice to personal stories like this one, but I can’t recommend this enough.

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  • Amy Leigh

    I loved this! It's well-written and engaging. I couldn't put it down! There are some laugh out loud moments and times you wish you could reach in and give Mei a hug or a high five. (Not that she would like that.)

    Mei is a Taiwanese-American seventeen year old who is starting her freshman year at MIT. She tries so hard to appease her very traditional parents while her mother constantly speaks negatively about her. She hides her Japanese crush turned boyfriend from her parents because that is the w

    I loved this! It's well-written and engaging. I couldn't put it down! There are some laugh out loud moments and times you wish you could reach in and give Mei a hug or a high five. (Not that she would like that.)

    Mei is a Taiwanese-American seventeen year old who is starting her freshman year at MIT. She tries so hard to appease her very traditional parents while her mother constantly speaks negatively about her. She hides her Japanese crush turned boyfriend from her parents because that is the worst to them. She tries hard to hold on to her culture but to also be herself and understand that she needs to do what is best for her since it is her life.

    She has a very difficult roommate who becomes a much needed friend and Mei has a very genuine germ-phobia. Her older brother was disowned by their parents for not living up to their standards but she doesn't know what really happened until he pops back into Mei's life. She has to figure out where she wants to go with her life and if she can really become the doctor her parents want her to be or pursue other avenues.

    Update: re-read 4/10/18

    My original rating stands, I adore this book!

  • alexandra

    this is the first book that made me feel like my asian-american-ness is seen. forever grateful. full review to come.

  • Romie

    This is also a book I would have needed in high school or during my three years of pre-med school. People can say all they want, but reading a book and being able to relate to it is probably one of the best feelings ever; I am but one Asian kid among many others, and I wish for them to find themselves

    This is also a book I would have needed in high school or during my three years of pre-med school. People can say all they want, but reading a book and being able to relate to it is probably one of the best feelings ever; I am but one Asian kid among many others, and I wish for them to find themselves in books.

    This is an ownvoices book about a Taiwanese-American girl born of Taiwanese immigrants, trying to make her way through MIT while struggling with her traditionalist parents’ expectations and what she truly wants for herself. People might sell you this book as a cute contemporary, saying it’s about a Taiwanese girl falling for a Japanese guy, but someone hold me, this book is so much more than that.

    Mei is a 17-year-old MIT student, pushed by her parents to become a doctor because ‘this is what’s best for her’ and she ‘should trust her parents to know what’s good for her’ … she’s torn between her Taiwanese heritage and the fact that she does happen to be both American and Taiwanese, she has to find where she stands between these two extremely different cultures. She’s been taught by her parents that respecting them means never challenging their point of view, or honouring them by finding a good husband, or being rich, or simply not speaking her mind.

    This book isn’t about a girl and a boy falling in love *coughs* It does happen in the book, sure, but this isn’t about that, this isn’t the core subject of this book. This book is about Mei finding out what she wants for her life, what she does or not believe in, what she can keep of Taiwanese heritage and what she should left behind because she cannot possibly believe it’s the right thing. Mei has to deal with this internalised obedience and guilt she feels when she thinks of not doing what her parents want. It’s about her learning to put herself first.

    I related a lot to this story. It makes me sad to say it because you never really want to say something bad abut your own culture, but Asian stereotypes do exist for a reason. Not everybody has to undergo them, but some of us do, I did. I saw my dad in Mei’s parents, in their way to control her life, her career, but I also saw my dad in Mei’s mom trying to make things better, trying to understand her. As a French-Vietnamese woman, I related to so many of the little things Mei had to go through, all these internalised racist comments people throw at you, all these Asian jokes ….. I could and did relate. I saw myself in May and her struggles, I was pushed to study sciences because we’re taught it’s the only way to succeed in life, I had to go against my parents to show them it wasn’t for me … that’s not something every Asian kid has to suffer through, but I did, and I am glad I could share this burden with Mei, see myself in her. It makes looking back on these years a little easier.

    This book is dear to my heart, it represents something I am not ashamed of, a battle I had to fight and won. This book represents hope in its most essential form.

    4.5

  • Fafa's Book Corner

    Omg this was so good!

    Going to be rereading this when it comes out.

  • Angelica

    I loved this so much I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It was equal parts funny and earnest, heartwarming and heartbreaking and it was so good!

    I laughed so hard while reading this book. And no, I don’t mean awkward little smiles and little huffs of air. No. I actually laughed out loud the entire time. I was reading it between class breaks at school and I keep getting weird looks from people as I tried to contain my laughter. And the way I see it, if a book can make you look like a fool a

    I loved this so much I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It was equal parts funny and earnest, heartwarming and heartbreaking and it was so good!

    I laughed so hard while reading this book. And no, I don’t mean awkward little smiles and little huffs of air. No. I actually laughed out loud the entire time. I was reading it between class breaks at school and I keep getting weird looks from people as I tried to contain my laughter. And the way I see it, if a book can make you look like a fool and you still keep reading it, then it must be a good book!

    The writing was good. The plot was nicely done. And the characters were compelling, especially Mei’s mom. She ended up being my favorite, as well as a very complex character despite her first impression.

    So, why not the full five stars, you may ask. Well, I just don’t feel like this is as strong as my previous five-star rated books. While this was fun at the moment, I don’t think that it will withstand the test of time and it will make me want to reread it. As much as I liked it, it didn’t quite make it into my list of favorites.

    Overall, this book was great. I highly recommend it. It’s a quick read that is both fun and wonderfully diverse. I look forward to the author’s future work.more than I can say.

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  • Catriona (LittleBookOwl)

    I listened to this on audio and would certainly recommend! I really enjoyed the narrator, and adored the story and our characters.

  • Heather 'Bookables'

    3/5

    A cute, adorable diverse read!!!

    Will feature it very soon in a mashup review!!

  • Lola  Reviewer

    This should have been a winner. Mei, the main character, is Taiwanese-American. She is a college student. I could probably count on one hand the number of YA novels with college settings that are published every year.

    The culture is great. Every chapter introduces the reader to a new characteristic of the Chinese culture. Some, however, are not well explained, such as why certain numbers are considered bad luck, but most are fairly straight-forward.

    But the problem is that even if this book is cle

    This should have been a winner. Mei, the main character, is Taiwanese-American. She is a college student. I could probably count on one hand the number of YA novels with college settings that are published every year.

    The culture is great. Every chapter introduces the reader to a new characteristic of the Chinese culture. Some, however, are not well explained, such as why certain numbers are considered bad luck, but most are fairly straight-forward.

    But the problem is that even if this book is clearly diverse and actually an easy read, I feel as though I have read this story already… about a hundred times before.

    Let me explain. Mei’s parents are old-fashioned and extremely demanding. Mei cannot do one thing without their permission unless it is something that improves her grades or physique. She is constantly being compared to her brother and other people who her parents consider to be ‘‘rebels’’ or ‘‘failures’’.

    I am certain that this all sounds familiar to you, too. To me, this (super controlling and demanding parents) is a trope. I did not give much thought to it in the beginning, since I was captivated by the Chinese culture presented, but after a hundred pages I began to lose interest.

    The other problem is that while I would not say that this is an unrealistic story, the author does stretch reality here and there. For instance, the Asian doctor she meets at the hospital early in the story seemed to exist only to make Mei realize medicine may not be the right area for her.

    And unfortunately, her Japanese love interest did not make me swoon. He is cute, I admit, but so are a thousand other boys. What makes this one special? Not that much… Plus I did notice an insta-love vibe.

    Not a very surprising story. I appreciated the culture and diversity, as I have mentioned many times, so thank you Gloria Chao for writing this book, because I bet new readers of the YA genre will enjoy it more.

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