American Panda by Gloria Chao
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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?
What I thought
American Panda is a young adult contemporary novel about 17-year-old Mei Lu. Mei’s parents have her life planned out; 1) attend and graduate from MIT, 2) become a doctor, and 3) marry a pre-approved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer preferably a doctor. The problem with that is Mei is only happy with one of those three things.
Mei who does not want to become a doctor is faced with the issue of being honest with herself or following the path that has been laid out for her. Mei’s passion is dance specifically Chinese dance. Mei feels that she needs to hide this part of her because her parents feel that it is a waste of her time. Mei with the support of some of her friends sees that to be happy she needs to find her own way.
I love how the Taiwanese culture is woven throughout the story. The author also made sure to look at “other” families and even show that there are differences and that the culture and how things are handled are not all the same. I always like learning more about other cultures and in this story, you really get to see how culture and being one’s self can clash. There is a lot of growth in this story not just with Mei but also with her mother who has to learn that she may not understand what is best for her daughter and that the hardest thing is letting her daughter choose her own road and not knowing the outcome.
As a whole, this story is very cute and I really enjoyed it.
My Rating: /5