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American Panda Hardcover – February 6, 2018
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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“Weepingly funny.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A soulful and hilarious debut.” —Booklist, starred review
“Effervescent.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Universal.” —School Library Journal, starred review
“This deserves a place on every shelf, though it will not stay there long.” —VOYA, starred review
“Eye-opening, hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking.” —Shelf Awareness
“An earnest, funny, and emotional story.” —Book Riot
“American Panda is an absolute delight; an insightful, incisive, and often hilarious story of one girl's struggle to balance her family's expectations against her own secret ambitions. Overflowing with wit and empathy, Chao's debut charmed my socks off.” —David Arnold, New York Times bestselling author of Kids of Appetite and Mosquitoland
“A charming and hilarious tale of a precocious Taiwanese American walking the tightrope of family expectations...in ice skates. Mei Lu is a goofy, lovable American teenager. I loved her.” —Stacey Lee, award-winning author of Outrun the Moon
"Incredibly timely, honest, and moving—the must-read book of the season!" —Sandhya Menon, New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi
“A dazzling debut that hooked me with its humor and heart from the very first page.” —Lisa Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Magician
“The perfect coming of age story for anyone who's ever felt unsure of where they belong. —Kerri Maniscalco, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Stalking Jack the Ripper
About the Author
Gloria Chao is an MIT graduate turned dentist turned writer. She currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out. Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at GloriaChao.Wordpress.com.
Top customer reviews
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I also LOVED that this book takes place during Mei's freshman year at MIT, a rare setting for YA but one I desperately want to see more. It's still 100 percent a coming-of-age story, a story about identity, a story about being pinned between two worlds and how to forge your own path.
Gloria Chao's debut is not to be missed.
This book has everything one could ask for in a contemporary YA novel. It's HILARIOUS. I'm talking scream laugh funny. There is also a sweet romance, and tidbits about MIT that are fascinating for this outsider. There are family dynamics, urban legends, and vivid settings. Plus, the book will make you hungry.
I can't say enough good things about American Panda. It's one of my favorites of 2018. Highly recommended.
American Panda is about Mei. Mei is a rebellious Taiwanese-American 17 year-old. She skipped a grade and is now attending MIT. American Panda is about her life, her inner and outer struggles, and her very traditional parents. I could barely put this book down because of the humor and the way the writing just pulls you in and lets you see Mei’s life as if you are really there. If you like realistic fiction or books with rebellious main characters, you will love this book!
From the very first chapter of this book, I knew for a fact that this was going to wind up being a 5 star read. It’s been a while since a book has really captured my attention and made me fall in love quite the way American Panda has. I had a feeling it was going to be a fun interesting book, but I guess I didn’t know just how much until I actually picked it up and started reading. Then I was completely blown away by how much I loved it!
American Panda had so many laugh out loud moments, as well as so many tender, heartfelt moments with family and self-discovery that made it unique, fun, and sweet. I honestly didn’t know much about Chinese and Taiwanese culture before going into this book, so I was a bit worried that the fact that I didn’t have much background knowledge might affect my enjoyment of the book, but that wasn’t an issue at all. In fact, Gloria Chao really allows this book to be enjoyed by all readers – even those who might not be familiar with customs and the culture.
“Even with seventeen years of practice, I didn’t have a fighting chance against a dish named stinky tofu. I gagged. My mother sniffed and smiled. ‘Smells like home.’ Mmm. Who doesn’t love the scent of athlete’s foot with lunch?”
At the start of the book, we are introduced to Mei and her parents. Mei is a seventeen year old Taiwanese-American girl who is a student at MIT. Her parents have pushed her to become a doctor, and she believes that she must, because that is their wish, so she is struggling against making her parents happy, and trying to figure out how on earth she can possibly become a doctor when germs gross her out so much.
“By the end of the day, I was bathing in my own sweat. I didn’t know how I was going to do this – get through medical school, make this my life. A few hours and I was ready to immerse my entire body in a hand-sanitzer bath.”
Along with being pushed to become a doctor, her mother is always pushing her to find a husband (well, to meet one that she believes is suitable), and to keep herself looking slim and good so that she could be attractive for men. Her mother believes she has found the perfect guy for Mei, and she is always pushing her to meet him, despite her wants.
“I smiled, but it wasn’t because I thought Hanwei was cute. I could never date the boy who once peed on my foot. Sure, we were six at the time and in a car, but to me he would always be the boy who couldn’t control his bladder.”
She is also constantly reminded of her brother’s disownment, and the fact that she could never speak to him or see him again, all because of the woman that he chose. This makes Mei feel pressured to only date someone of the same culture as she, even though she finds herself slowly falling for someone her parents would never approve of.
“No one understood me or how hard this was. How I felt like I had to split myself in two, neither of them truly Mei, just to make everyone else happy.”
So what Mei decides to do is attempt to live two lives – one that allows her parents to be proud of her, hiding everything that makes her unique and happy, and the other she keeps for herself, including attempting to see her brother, acting on her feelings for a boy her mother and father would never approve of, and teaching dance classes, because that is where she feels happiest. However, since her parents would never allow any of these things, Mei starts to feel as though she is keeping too many secrets, and she is afraid her parents will disown her the way that they disowned her brother.
“Dance was the one place I truly belonged, where age, race, looks, and intelligence didn’t matter. I had pretended to continue dancing for my parents’ sakes – partly to earn brownie points but mostly because I was scared if they knew just how much I loved it, they would take it away. Dancers don’t make money, Mei.”
When Mei finds herself in need of speaking to her brother, just to see where it all went wrong and because she doesn’t believe he should have just been cast out in such an aweful way, she has to fight her parents wishes once again to do what she believes is right, keeping even more secrets.
“I could agree to stop seeing Xing and Darren, try harder in biology, stop teaching dance…Except I couldn’t. I had already tried. And failed. If I lied, the real me would disappear. I’d become that hollow shell, nothing more than the emptiness I saw in Dr. Chang.”
I loved Mei’s story – it was so heartwarming and it really made you appreciate your family, but it also gives readers a sense of empowerment, because although Mei is going behind her parents’ backs to do what she feels is necessary for her, she still does it. She wants to honor her parents’ wishes, of course, but at the same time, she doesn’t want to disappear and become someone she doesn’t recognize. And she really has no desire to eat stinky tofu. She also wants to make new friends, fall in love, and stand up for the things that she believes in.
The relationship that Mei had with her parents was interesting – especially with her mother. While you might think that her mother is overbearing and pushy, that is part of Mei’s culture. I found the character development in American Panda to be incredibly moving and I think it really made the book.
The supporting characters in the book were interesting – for example, I went from not liking Mei’s roommate Nicolette very much, to absolutely adoring her. What unfolded when we finally learned about her brother was also interesting and vital to the story.
If you are looking for a great read that you won’t be able to put down, American Panda is perfect for you.
Note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Most recent customer reviews
American Panda is an absolutely excellent work of contemporary YA fiction. It's funny, relatable, and sweet.Read more