Monday, April 16, 2018

[Review] American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Rating: 5 stars

Format: ARC
Release Date: February 16th 2018

Goodreads Synopsis:
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 received this ARC from Miss Print's (Emma) ARC Adoption over here! Thank you Emma!

The moment I saw the premise for American Panda, I knew I had to read it. Why? Because it hits at my very soul. So this review will be more personal than I usual am with reviews.

Mei's going through something that many immigrant children have to deal with - juggling both fulfilling her parents' wishes after all their hard work and also trying to figure out her own dreams. For Mei, she has already been told that she must be a doctor, even though she hates germs and would rather teach and practice dance. She hides this from her parents and the rest of her family, who have brought her up in a closeted and sheltered lifestyle. Because her brother Xing has been disowned for falling in love with what her family considers is 'the wrong girl', Mei is the remaining hope for her family.

This was so relatable at so many levels. Firstly, I get Mei. She wants to appease her parents but also be herself. She hasn't had that chance ever since her brother was disowned. So reading about her inner conflicts (especially when she meets Darren!) was very gut-wrenching.  She's my favorite type of heroine and she was such an enjoyable read because she's still developing and still trying new things so she's got the awkward person vibes - but she stands her ground for what she believes in, too! She's so brave for especially standing up to her parents.

I dog-eared too many quotes and pages because this book is literally the poster-immigrant child book (especially if you're going into medicine). All the guilt and emotions growing up as an immigrant child.

I shook my head. "You don't get it. You must not now the kind of pressure I'm under, the type of guilt I feel."

But why did I have to bear this burden? Why was I destined to be unhappy?
Life wasn't fair.
My mother shook her head, eyes closed. "Mei, people need to know where they come from. They can't know who they are without that. And traditions must be kept alive. Otherwise, they die."
"It makes sense that you and Baba care about keeping traditions alive since you were born in Taiwan. But it's different for me, for my generation. We were born here, live here. It's Chinese culture at home, American culture everywhere else. Do you know how hard that is? Can't we keep traditions we like and alter the ones we don't agree with? Don't we get to choose who we are?"

All the relationships in this book were developed so well and they were all a pleasure to read. They're all very intricate and layered because there's a lot more going on with Mei and her parents, Darren, Xing, etc. Her relationship with her mom was so, so sweet.

I'm glad there was some form of a resolution in the end (ALL THE SCENES LEADING UP TO THE END WERE SO PAINFUL AND I WAS TEARING UP). Ahem. Mei trying to repair her relationships with her family is something that was very much needed (can't have too much of a happy ending aha). Trying to reconcile two different worlds is a message that everyone can definitely relate to. But seeing her become more of who she wanted to be in the end was so great! (I love that declaration of love to Darren!)

There was also a lot of humorous scenes and Mei's sarcasm definitely shown through in the narration!

Excellent work." Dr. Wilson chuckled. "It's like a treasure hunt."
A sadistic, twisted treasure hunt for serial killers, maybe.

All in all, a fantastic read, especially for college/immigrant students trying to find their way.

1 comment:

  1. I just finished reading this book and gave it 5 stars too--loved Mei and her vulnerabilities, sarcasm, intelligence, dancing, and struggle to be herself and risk losing everything--family, friends, school, and home. I just knew I had to read this book and it didn't disappoint me with one small exception--I wanted more interaction from a friendship side from Darren as I wanted to know more about his background and life too. Oh, and another--it ended!!