Reviews

American Panda, by Gloria Chao

blujade's review

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4.0

Cute, funny read. I highly recommend the Audio book Emily Woo Zeller did a wonderful job.

muslihah's review

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4.0

So glad YA is becoming more diverse because we get to read books like this!

alaizagret's review against another edition

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challenging emotional funny hopeful inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

jkeel97's review

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3.0

American Panda was an impulse buy when I was ordering a large selection of other recently published young adult books. However, it was the first one I read when they all arrived. I think it was because I had not heard a lot of buzz about this book which made me curious.
This book is part of the new amazing wave of diverse authors and stories in YA and it presented the story of a 17-year-old Taiwanese American girl at MIT and her struggle with her parent's cultural expectations and her own dreams. The book was a slow start to me, but as I went on I engaged more and more with the funny yet emotional core of the novel's voice. This was a girl who is pre-med but also a germaphobe, who loves to dance but is also socially awkward.
The main character Mei was so endearing and yet so funny that it was easy to root for her. I loved the portrayal of the complex relationship she had with her family, the competing emotions of loyalty and love but the craving for freedom. The relationship with her mother was specifically well done. Her mother could have easily been just a one-dimensional antagonistic character, but she had also had a lot of humor and complex motivations that won me over to her.
Some of the other relationships felt more rushed and not fully developed to me. For instance, her roommate just seemed thrown into the picture at the end and I would have liked to see their relationship developed more throughout.
Another one of my favorite parts of the book was the way Chinese culture was worked into the narrative. It was done in a way that did not feel overtly educational, but at the same time did not make the references fully inaccessible to non-Chinese readers. That is a hard balance to strike. The use of Mandarin throughout the book was integrated well and represented the larger combination of American and Chinese culture that the main character embodies.
Overall, I was surprised in the end how much I enjoyed this book because at the start it felt just a tad too cliche and the pacing a bit off. But really the characters sucked me in and the book passed by quickly. The best part about the book was the feeling that the author had felt a lot of these emotions first hand and she even has a special thank you to her own mother in the acknowledgments. And I can definitely say I will pick up whatever book Gloria Chao decides to write next.

geminipenguin's review

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3.0

I really enjoyed the message of Mei's story. I'm giving this book 3 stars, because in parts this story dragged and so many of the characters annoyed the heck out of me.

In a lot of ways this story is like many other coming of age stories seen in YA. It's about a young woman struggling to find her voice and to be herself. The struggle between pleasing her parents and living in her own truth.

This story was also an 'own voices' story which added a lot of Chinese/Taiwanese elements to the plot and the story.

My biggest gripe with this story is I hated almost all the characters by the middle of the book. Everyone seemed certain to know what was best for Mei and no one listened to her about what was best for her when she tried to speak up.

What I loved about Mei's story is that despite knowing she could be disowned like her brother before her, she made her own choices and eventually followed her own heart. Her mom did eventually come around, but spent most of the book criticizing Mei which drove me insane. Her aunt and grandmother were even worse. The aunt never came around.

I liked how Mei's story resolved believably. It hurts a bit that her father didn't budge and reconnect with his children, but that happens so many times. I'm glad her mom was making an effort with Mei at least.

srousseau's review

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3.0

Light read about a girl dealing with parental expectations. Very specific cultural references.

yvonneiswriting's review

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3.0

This story is a cute one of a Taiwanese-American starting her first year of college (a year early!) and struggling to keep her parent's traditions and her new life separate.

I wasn't 100% sure I would be interested in this story, but I love a good diverse book that kind of gives me glimpses in how other cultures work, so I chose to listen to it.
It felt very real - the characters were all well developed, their beliefs were so big, and their struggles were relatable.
The growth of mostly all of the characters was great, and it didn't feel forced.
It read as someone's life story actually would. I liked that.

There was a lot of shaming, though, and I was not about that. Even if it is normal in the culture.

ele_b's review

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4.0

This was a fun, quick read, perfect for those days where you just feel like you need a break. While I thought a large portion of the jokes in the first part were unnecessarily vulgar, it isn't so bad in the second half.

Please be a female, please be a female, please be a female -
"Let me look at your rash" said the male Indian doctor in a heavy accent.

The humor in this book is FANTASTIC and will leave you rolling on the floor. It's awkward and embarrassing and all-too familiar jokes like these that litter the pages of this book, and make it such a comfort read.

At the end of this book, there is an Author's Note that clearly states this was just the experience of herself and those she knows. Yes, one should address the overly-strict ways of some Asian parents - but we shouldn't say all are like that.

I also loved that for a change the 'culturally unacceptable' relationship was between two non-white people. I'm sick and tired of reading about the 'shocking' love between a white person and an Asian. I'm sorry. It's been done before, and is usually written in such a demeaning way. Instead, we have the issue of the relations between Japan and China. Japan has been completely disgusting towards this region - the massacre of Nanjing was no isolated occurrence - but it shows that prejudice against the entire race is wrong. How they text each other with the greetings of their own, contrasting languages was honestly precious, if not refreshing from all the 'Oh-look-a-white-guy'.

As I said, this was a very fun read and I very much enjoyed it. If you enjoyed this book I would like to recommend [b:I Love You So Mochi|39828159|I Love You So Mochi|Sarah Kuhn|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1538099552l/39828159._SX50_.jpg|61583997] and [b:Kinfolk|40669824|Kinfolk|Pearl S. Buck|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1530287762l/40669824._SY75_.jpg|1595962] for their depiction of Asian family, and also you may want to look into the works of [a:Meg Cabot|11654|Meg Cabot|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1532640822p2/11654.jpg] and [a:Becky Albertalli|7579036|Becky Albertalli|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1392414949p2/7579036.jpg] for fun, similarly light-weight reads.

lenny3's review

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4.0

God lord this was just adorable. Although I can not speak to the cultural representation within the book, my heart is bursting from the relationships - familiar, friendship and romantic. Messy, complicated, we developed and layered, just hit me right in the feels. I also love that story lines that could have (and TBH, straddled) slipped into mild slut shaming made a point of pulling back and taking another path.
I really look forward to picking up anything else that Chao puts out!

mayab1226's review against another edition

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emotional funny
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

3.75