American Panda, by Gloria Chao

alittlehaze's review against another edition

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There's a lot to praise in American Panda because it's an own voices YA that reveals some of the experiences of being a Taiwanese-American teenage girl.

But sadly it's also rather dull.

I found the narrative to be lacking in much needed humour (or simply some light and shade) and seemingly mired in a lot of stereotypes. While it was interesting to read about Mei's experiences due to her traditional upbringing every other character in this felt one dimensional.

I felt that Mei's family in particular were only ever defined by their being Taiwanese. Which okay I get, this is a book exploring that culture...

But shouldn't characters feel more than their culture?
I mean yes the point of the book was to show how everyone was constrained by tradition but people surely can't just be one thing, can they????

And realistically this book didn't manage to find a unique take on the trope of the controlling parent. Despite the Taiwanese-American cultural aspect to this book which is something that I am not at all familiar with it just felt like a number of other ya novels with controlling parents. Nothing really made this stand out from the crowd.

I really think the problem was down to the writing. It was just so bland. Mei experienced such emotional upheaval with her family... yet I never once cared. This is a book that very much tells the a story to reader but doesn't truly create characters that make you feel. There was no showing of emotion at all. No passages or dialogue that were truly emotive.

And many characters were used purely as convenient plot devices rather than feeling integral to Mei's life. And the love story??? Utterly insipid insta love.

Also, content warning for anyone with phobias and anxieties surrounding germs. As Mei has deep rooted issues with cleanliness and germs and the way this phobia is described could definitely be triggering. I don't have a problem with germs but I frequently found myself feeling quite unsettled by some of Mei's irrational germ-related thoughts.

This was an easy read but I don't feel that this is an author that I want to return to in the future as sadly this felt exceedingly generic despite the excellent premise. A shame.

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kimu23's review

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funny hopeful lighthearted sad 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


ashleymeece's review against another edition

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I honestly wasn't sure if I would like this one that much. I was pretty disengaged for the first 1/3 of the story. Nothing really grabbed me at that point, and I was kind of annoyed at Mei for being so passive and meek. But as the story continued, I realized that her meekness was the point.

Mei and her family are trapped within the heavily superstitious and patriarchal Chinese culture. Her struggle to reconcile her desires and her love for her family make for a compelling narrative, once it actually kicks in. The romance was well paced and I thought the characters had great and palpable chemistry (a rarity in YA romance). But the relationship that was most intriguing to me was between Mei and her mother. I'm a sucker for parent and child relationship drama, and this was top tier. I don't want to get into details so as to not spoil the story, but I'll say this: the ending had me grinning from ear to ear. Nothing is wrapped in a neat, perfect bow. But the progress is well earned, as this story is full of struggles and triumphs. Some fav characters (besides Mei and her mother) - Darren (what a sweet and understanding guy!) and Nic (I love characters that are unashamedly bold).

Solid 4/5. This is a great story if you're interested in Chinese-American culture or just a really well told YA story. If you aren't grabbed at the beginning but still find the premise interesting, I encourage you to keep reading!

thatbookdragon_samantha_cr's review against another edition

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There was no right or wrong here. No morality. Just two roads, leading in different directions but both ending in heartbreak. Life was, as I was finding out, Choose Your Own Adventure with most of the fun stripped away.
Gloria Chao, American Panda

This book was funny and adorable. I loved it!

Mei was a really great main character. She was amazing. I think I might be a little in love with Darren, he just seemed so kind and obviously loved Mei very much. Their romance is cute moment after cute moment and just so adorable.

The book isn’t only about the romance. It focuses a lot on Mei’s family and their relationships, which I really liked about the book. The author did an amazing job with this book making it light and fun but, also giving it some depth.

This was an own voices story with Asian representation and it was totally adorable and amazing. Definitely get this on your shelf ASAP!

dewey7962's review against another edition

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I can't get over how much this book made me feel. I expected this book to be good, but I did not expect it to stir up so many different emotions. I both couldn't put it down and had to take a break between chapters to sort through everything, so most of my day yesterday was me reading a chapter, closing the book and holding it while I sat there and felt things, and then opening the book back up. I loved getting to know Mei and being able to see the similarities and differences between her culture and upbringing and my own, and I loved even more that Mei got to do the same thing after observing her friends' relationships with their families in comparison with her own. This story wasn't just Mei learning how to be true to herself, it was her realizing that what she had experienced as Taiwanese culture was only one interpretation of that culture, and that there were lots of ways to respect her parents' customs while still being who she was.

renatasnacks's review against another edition

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There's a lot to like here--it's great to see a YA protagonist who graduates HS early and starts college (and the specific MIT details are a lot of fun), and to see specifically an Asian-American (specifically Taiwanese-American) girl talking about body image in a fat-positive-ish way (tho her mom is very fatphobic) is cool.

That said some of the character details seemed....half-hearted? Like a central conflict is that Mei's parents want her to be a doctor but she hates science and is germphobic. But her germphobia seems very...conditionally active. It does seem appropriate that she comes across as overall very immature since she is a young college first-year, but for an adult reader it was hard to get through. Her voice--and her mom's nagging voicemails--will probably be funnier/more relatable for some younger readers, who of course are the intended audience here anyway.

Although it's great that this is an #ownvoices book it still feels a little like this specific "tiger mom" culture clash has been done a lot. Still, for some readers I'm sure this will ring true, and it's great to have this to offer to teen readers.

Also ok, so her parents disowned her brother because he was dating a girl who was maybe infertile, and I get that they're nosy and there's a lot of gossip but also HOW DID THAT EVEN COME UP? It seemed like the parents heard about it on like their first date--since Mei never met Esther--and instantly disowned him, and then she wasn't even actually infertile but just had some kind of lady health problem?? Just seemed like maybe that whole situation needed a tiny more setup,
especially given how much it loomed over the rest of the narrative?

lastella's review against another edition

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Mei is an adorable, smart, kind, and funny protagonist. She totally won my heart, I loved how she grew independently as well as with the help from her boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, and mother. Although it starts a little slow, this story is great and made me super happy! Yay!

ohsoyhappy's review

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This was a quick, cute little story that also highlights the pressure and personal fight we have every day as Asian-Americans stepping from one culture at home to another at school. It goes in depth the struggles of finding who we are as a person as well as trying to disappoint our families. I found some of the things that went on in this novel to be extreme, but it is fictitious. I enjoy the fluffy, light, romance of Mei and Darren but it was just that.

booktalkwithrae's review against another edition

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Wow. This was a surprising read for me!

As a person who doesn’t usually enjoy contemporary reads I really enjoyed this one!

If you like When Dimple Met Rishi or From Twinkle with Love by Sandya Menon you will enjoy this.

If follows the similar storyline of struggling identity. An American teenager struggling with her parents heritage and her American heritage and following what her parents want for her but trying to find balance in what she wants herself.

I must admit, my love for Asian history/culture/ language probably plays a part as to why I enjoyed this book so much. But none the less it was amazing seeing two sides of the debate. One side being Mei wanting to achieve her own dreams and ambitions and her parents wanting her to follow the plan the made for her. I often found myself flipping back in forth with “that’s a good point” despite rooting for Mei throughout the story.

I thought it enjoyed the ending and how it wasn’t a complete happily ever after (you’ll understand what I mean if you read it).

Very easy, light, fun contemporary read. And I felt like this snowy snowy day was the perfect day to read it 😊

The audio book was very well done as well 😊

mythicalbeastxiii's review against another edition

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Watching Mei come to terms with herself and where she falls in her family's traditions was like watching a flower bloom.

Already at the age of seventeen, she felt like an outsider as an MIT freshmen. But being at school she starts to get these small glimpses of life outside of her strict Taiwanese upbringing. Little by little, Mei begins to realize she needs to do what makes her happy, even if it means jeopardizing everything.

I loved watching Mei come to terms with herself. She really grew as a character. Everyone around her plays an important part to this growth. Her brother Xing and his own disownment. Darren, who pushes Mei to find her own happiness and not break while bending to her family's wishes. Nicolette, the roommate who Mei never quite gives a passing chance to... Then of course Mei's strict parents, grandmother, and aunt. Each person plays such a crucial part.