American Panda

American Panda

Book - 2018
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A freshman at MIT, seventeen-year-old Mei Lu tries to live up to her Taiwanese parents' expectations, but no amount of tradition, obligation, or guilt prevent her from hiding several truths--that she is a germaphobe who cannot become a doctor, she prefers dancing to biology, she decides to reconnect with her estranged older brother, and she is dating a Japanese boy.
Publisher: New York :, Simon Pulse,, 2018.
Edition: First Simon Pulse hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781481499101
1481499106
Branch Call Number: YA FICTION Chao Gloria 01/2018
Characteristics: 310 pages ;,22 cm

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Realistic Fiction / Humorous / College / Taiwanese Americans | Novelist: Min/Max Grade level:9 - 12

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JCLHebahA May 14, 2018

This book hits a wide range of emotional notes, from the giddy delight of falling in love to the heavy weight of trying to balance overwhelming and guilt-inducing parental expectations with personal autonomy. Readers who have grown up with first-generation immigrant parents will likely see aspect... Read More »


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JCLHebahA May 14, 2018

This book hits a wide range of emotional notes, from the giddy delight of falling in love to the heavy weight of trying to balance overwhelming and guilt-inducing parental expectations with personal autonomy. Readers who have grown up with first-generation immigrant parents will likely see aspects of their experience in Mei's story (even if their experiences aren't as extreme), but it's also a sympathetic window for those not of a similar background.

samcmar May 01, 2018

American Panda has a misleading cover. From first glance, it seems like this book would be a cute, fluffy read -- and it is in parts. This book also at times takes a bit of a darker tone, which is rather unexpected. Even with that tonal shift at times, I happily want to recommend this book.

This book follows the story of Mei, a Taiwanese-American girl who has very strict parents. Her family wants her to be a doctor, marry someone who is Taiwanese and also aspiring to a similar career. Under no circumstances is Mei allowed to date someone who is not Taiwanese or approved by her parents. In fact, her parents already have Mei's life plotted out for her.

This was such a difficult read for me at times as I found myself sympathizing with Mei a lot. I recognize that I am not Asian and have never had this experience, but I was a former ESL teacher whose main clientele were all Asian, and on numerous occasions I would have conversations with my students about their home lives and parent's expectations. It broke my heart a lot of the time given many of the teens I dealt with just wanted to be understood by their parents, and you definitely see that here with Mei. She wants her parents approval, but she still also wants to be her own individual with her own choices being made. There is a huge tug-and-pull between following traditions and choosing your path in this story, and it makes for an interesting story, if one I've heard many times before.

Some of my favourite parts of this book were Mei's interactions with her disowned brother, Xing. Xing and Mei's re-connection is one of the strongest parts of this story as it gives you a lot of insight into just how important certain traditions to older generations. Being Italian, I oddly can understand this given many Italian parents only want their children to marry other Italians. I really just loved how close the siblings became given the circumstances involving Xing's becoming disgraced.

One area where this book didn't quite work for me was some of the humour. I found it to be pretty hit-or-miss, and oddly found myself loving the book more when it was about the family relationships and less about Mei's interest in Darren (though I'll admit, they were very cute!). I really felt for Mei's mother in the story, regardless of how overbearing she was.

American Panda is a story I've read before, but one I still very much enjoyed. I found Mei's perspective very informative and her feelings were completely worn on her sleeve. She's a girl I definitely found myself connecting with even though our circumstances are so different. Don't let this fluffy, cheerful cover fool you -- Gloria Chao doesn't shy away from punching the reader in the feelings.

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