American Panda by Gloria Chao
Mei is seventeen and in college. She should be a senior in high school, but skipping a grade was part of her parents’ grand plan for her life. She is a first generation Taiwanese-American born to immigrant parents. They want her to become a doctor and marry a nice Taiwanese born of her their choosing–who must also be a doctor.
She’s in her first year at MIT and struggling with her biology classes. She doesn’t like biology, and has a phobia of germs. Which makes becoming a doctor difficult. Not only that, but she’s met a Japanese-American guy that she’s into.
She wants to please her parents but she also wants to be herself. But if she does that, she risks being disowned… like her brother.
This book is everything I wanted it to be. It’s cute and funny in all the right places, and serious in all the right places. It’s an awesome contemporary about an interesting and imperfect main character straddling cultures. She loves her parents but she can she really be happy following the path they set out for her?
As Mei finally gets a little space from her parents (emphasis on little: they insist on weekly dinners), she learns more about herself and takes smalls steps away from her determined path.
I loved every bit of this story. It was neat to learn bits about Chinese culture and the experience of having immigrant parents. I loved learning the mandarin words peppered throughout.
It was great to see Mei evolve, gain confidence, and come into her own. There is something that everyone can relate to in this story about growing up. At some point in our lives, we all have to figure out how to be our own person apart from our parents. But for some of us, thankfully, the stakes aren’t so high!
If you like YA contemporaries, you’ll love this!
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Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.