A review by leahsbooks
American Panda, by Gloria Chao

emotional funny reflective fast-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


After reading Rent A Boyfriend, I had to read this one. I got access to the audiobook, and it was a quick, moving read. I loved the narrator - she sounded young and believable as Mei. 

I loved the way the relationships built and changed for Mei, especially with her mother, her brother, and a childhood friend. She grew so much throughout the story, but it was so organic that it almost wasn't noticeable until suddenly I realized how much she had changed from the beginning of the book. 

Even though there were some heavier issues throughout the book, the story still felt light and fun. There were plenty of humorous parts, and I left feeling like I had a better understanding of Taiwanese-American culture. Listening to it as an audiobook gave me a better appreciation for the snippets of language that are interspersed throughout the text, like how they are actually pronounced. I can read them, it's always so different hearing them. 

I would have liked to see a little more of the connections between Mei and her peers. There wasn't a lot of time devoted to Mei and other characters her age. I guess that after reading Rent A Boyfriend I was expecting more of a romance, but it turned out to be more of a coming of age story about how the relationship between Mei and her mother changed and grew, as Mei learned how to stand up for herself. But I still would have liked to see more of the relationship between Mei and Darren. 

Overall, this was a great story, and has solidified Gloria Chao's place as one of my favorite multicultural writers. She's incredibly talented, telling stories about navigating the complicated territory of being part of two cultures, and having one foot in each, while never feeling entirely comfortable in either. Her characters are complex and flawed, but ultimately endearing and intriguing, the kind of characters who feel so real that I can't help but want to see them succeed. 

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