A review by alittlehaze
American Panda, by Gloria Chao

2.0

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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