American Panda by Gloria Chao

📚   📚   📚   📚   / 5

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 read this book on a complete whim. I was quickly browsing the RivitedLit reads of the month, saw it and thought ‘why not? I remember the awesome reviews about it.’ Why didn’t I read it sooner? I swear, everyone around me was sick of me talking about it. I complained on Mei’s behalf to my friends and teachers ( who then promptly told me to stop reading in their class ) and my parents. This book was so amazingly written, I couldn’t put it down. I went and bought a copy for my Kindle, too!

Mei struggled with finding her place in the world, and I was shocked on her behalf ( and mine ) when some of the stuff her mother said came up, or even what happened with her parents and brother. I couldn’t believe it! I always ( naively ) thought that first generation immigrant parents wanted children to strive because they wanted to have a better life. This book gave me a new perspective on the Taiwanese – American pressures put onto students and children like Mei.

I can’t wait to read more books like this. It gave me some really heavy ‘Starfish’ by Akemi Dawn Bowman vibes, and I loved that book, so I definitely recommend it. I was struggling to put it down, and it’s probably the first contemporary novel in a long time to get me this hooked and in love with a story.

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