February 16, 2018

Staying True To Self • American Panda

American Panda is a contemporary novel with a Taiwanese-American main character that is the perfect combination of entertaining and relatable. It's about Mei, a seventeen-year-old who is starting her freshman year at MIT and appears following the path her parents have laid out for her for years: studying to become a doctor and marrying a proper Taiwanese boy. But Mei knows that she wants other things for herself, things that her parents might not necessarily approve of. The novel tackles her struggle to reconcile her desire to honor her parents, embrace her culture and still remain true to who she is, and Gloria Chao does so, so well in executing this story with all of its facets.

Right off the bat, American Panda suited me perfectly because it featured a lot of elements that I'm drawn to: the college freshman experience (which was definitive for me in my real life), an adorable romance (let's face it, I'm a sucker for Japanese boys and a friends-turned-something-more romance), and personal growth (because I love stories where characters are allowed to discover more things about themselves through experiences good and bad). But I also just adored the fact that the main character had experiences similar to my own when it came to embracing both sides of her heritage (Taiwanese and American for her; Filipino and American for me), including the struggle to reconcile how to honor her history and her parents without sacrificing her own self. I really appreciated Chao's depiction of this particular slice of reality (that applies to so many folks I know), and I think it was done really well.

I really liked American Panda, partly for the way it felt like a reflection of myself and partly just because it was a fun story to read. I'm delighted that it was written and that it exists in mainstream YA. Gloria Chao did a great job telling Mei's story, and I can't wait to see what she does next! 

American Panda by Gloria Chao | Publisher: Simon Pulse | Publication Date: February 6, 2018 | Source: e-galley downloaded from NetGalley (Thank you!)


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