Book Review–American Panda

American PandaAmerican Panda by Gloria Chao

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a fun read! I’m giving it a solid four stars.

I first picked up this book because I saw it on “Top YA releases of 2018” or some other list like that. The description (and let’s face it, that adorable cover) convinced me to pick it up.

As always, I’ll give three good aspects of the book and three bad, so as to be fair and honest in my review.

Good stuff

Mei is a likeable, funny protagonist, and her voice is fun to read. I feel like she’s a “love me or hate me” protagonist; other reviews on this book quote her as kind of annoying, but I loved her. Her passion for dance, her quirky germophobic nature that bordered on comedic at times, her desire to do right by her parents vs. her secret love for dance and her aversion to anything science.

At the cost of sounding repetitive, because I say this a lot, this was a fun, fast read. Some of you might consider that a bad thing, like “Oh, I’ll only get a few hours worth of reading enjoyment out of this book,” but I consider that a good thing because I have SO MANY OTHER SHINY BOOKS I WANT TO READ! So when a book is a fast read, it just means that I can get to the next shiny book that much sooner!

Shiny books I got for Christmas!

Mei, her family, and most of her friends (see my note below for the ones who don’t) felt like real people, and I kept turning pages because I wanted to see what would happen next.

Bad things

Some characters faded into the background, and their “vital moments” didn’t come through properly. Examples (avoiding spoilers) include Helen, a friend of Mei’s from high school, Joyce, an old acquaintance who was basically the catalyst for the denoument, Nic, Mei’s roommate, and Ying-Na, a stand-up comedian who inspires Mei. As a result, many of these characters just felt like filler, as opposed to proper plot points that contributed to a real arc of any sort.

The romance itself was a little insta-lovey and tropey. It was neither swoonworthy nor cringeworthy. Darren (Mei’s love interest) had pretty much no personality, and he could technically be replaced by a living, breathing piece of cardboard–nothing would change. So at times when Mei was all over him, I was like “Really? Why do you like him again? Because he’s hot?”

There was a significant lack of setting. For example, at one point Mei mentioned the snow on the ground and I was like “Huh, what? It was snowing? How come this wasn’t a thing?” I’ve never been to Boston or MIT, and the author didn’t really set the scene for us at any point, so I had trouble understanding what certain settings looked like. I guess what I’m trying to say is, there was a severe lack of description and I didn’t get to experience the world through Mei’s eyes like I wanted to.

In conclusion: A fun, fast read, cute, featuring an adorable, realistic Taiwanese-American protagonist.

Also, random question. Xing was excommunicated from his family because his girlfriend couldn’t get pregnant and his parents were mad he still wanted to be with her, right? So what would have happened if Xing himself had been the infertile one? Like, if he’d been the one unable to have children for some medical reason. I think it would have also been interesting if Xing had been left infertile because of something his parents did (for example, he got measles because his parents didn’t vaccinate him, and the measles made him infertile, and so when they excommunicate him for not producing grandchildren, he throws it in their face that “it’s all your fault I can’t give you grandchildren lol.”)

If you want to give this book a try for yourself, you can buy American Panda on Amazon and follow Gloria Chao on Twitter!

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Have a good week, everyone!

Corinne 乙女

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