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American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda is a novel you won’t want to put down. Filled with humor, romance, and the struggle of family expectations, Chao’s coming-of-age story will resonate with many readers.

Cecelia Beckman, Sheaf & Ink

The Story

From the Publisher:

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

My Review: American Panda

American Panda gave me all the feels.

It’s not only about a young girl figuring out what she wants to do with her life, but also the deep rooted traditions and incredibly high expectations families have for their children. What was devastating to watch (and experience) are the consequences if Mei deviated from the path her parents set for her. There is this emotional turmoil seeping into her being like ooze from an infection. In addition to the pressure she’s feeling we see another character who seems to represent Mei’s future self if she follows the same path of becoming a doctor. Further, the full ramifications come to light in the estrangement between her family and Mei’s older brother for choosing to date the wrong kind of woman.

There is this uneven kilter between the generations. A disconnect.

Where older generations create this tightrope their children must walk without questions.

Rigid. Taut. Unmovable.

And when compared to Mei’s American heritage she is constantly struggling with the insurmountable guilt she feels when her own goals do not align with her parents forecast for her future.

A Few More Thoughts

What I loved most about this book was the romance.💕

Mei is this awkwardly cute teenager who has the best sense of humor. There were so many delightfully funny moments where I was literally laughing out loud. I was drawn to every emotion, like a moth to a flame. Chao captured the guilt, the sadness, the want for a life that was not predetermined, the romance (so adorable) in such an astute way, readers will no doubt recognize those feelings as well.

It was like a roadmap with the details of how we got here, but also a way to show how it can all be revised. To match the terrain and roads Mei wanted to make for herself, and finding joy and acceptance in those choices.

And I did like how Chao brought that aspect of the novel to the forefront. Especially with the mother-daughter relationship and how that changes over the course of the novel. It’s brilliantly crafted. By the end of the novel my eyes were brimming with tears with the inner reflection we see by Mei’s mother.

Because families are complicated.

But there is always the hope that things can eventually be mended and bridges can be fortified. Where everyone can find common ground. Finding a space where Mei and those she cares about belong.

Safe, and whole, and happy.

I highly recommend reading American Panda.

Happy Reading ̴ Cece

RATING: ink blotink blotink blotink blot – Exceptionally Inked

Publication Details

  • Publication day: February, 2018
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1481499101
  • Pages: 320
  • Age Group: 12+
  • Hardcopy: $19.99
  • Get A Copy⬇️

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