Genre: Contemporary


Friday, February 02, 2018

Didn’t Love: American Panda by Gloria Chao

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I received this book for free from Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Didn’t Love: American Panda by Gloria ChaoAmerican Panda by Gloria Chao
Published by Simon Pulse on February 6th, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Simon Pulse
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two-half-stars

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

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?

American Panda was one of my most anticipated novels of 2018 so it is truly unfortunate that I did not, in fact, love it. I do want to start off by saying that I don’t intend to discourage anyone from reading the book in this review, just convey my experience with it. We are at a point in time where even though there is a large influx in diverse books, we still don’t have nearly enough. Stats show that the number of diverse books published by diverse authors every year is so dismal. I hope that this book will allow many many many kids to see themselves reflected in the story and that they will be able to cherish it.

That said, my biggest issue with the book is not with the story or the characters really. It is with the writing. Perhaps my experience was impacted by the fact that I did not read a finished copy. Changes are always being made b/w arc versions and finished versions but the writing definitely felt choppy throughout as opposed to just in specific parts.

I liked Mei and I liked the people she met but none of the characters I was introduced to really came to life for me. I felt like I was reading stories about cardboard cutouts. There was depth to them on paper but that depth didn’t really translate itself across the span of the story. The writing was chock full of moments where we are told things but not really shown them.

I assumed the romance would also be more central to the story, which in some ways it was but it really wasn’t? Does that even make sense? There is nothing wrong with the romance being central or not being central but the way it was written just didn’t work. The romance looked really good on paper but not so much in practice. The characters had no chemistry and I am not even entirely sure how they ended up together.

The book centered Mei’s narrative above all which was nice and appreciated. We get to see her come of age and navigate her complicated relationship with her conservative parents. We also get to see her navigate her culture and what her Taiwanese-American identity means. All of these things were so great and even as I struggled to truly enjoy the novel, I still found things I could relate to so I am sure so many teens and other readers will as well.

I do feel obligated to warn that there are undertones of internalized racism in Mei’s character that aren’t really addressed. Of course, overcoming internalized racism isn’t easy so it is not surprising that everything isn’t automatically okay by the end of the book, but it is still painful to read about if you’ve had those experiences. It was painful for me because I am still working on overcoming my own internalized racism from years of microaggressions. It might not be an issue for some people but because of my own experiences, it kind of was for me.

That being said, there is humor to be had and some feel-good moments to be had. Unfortunately, I just ended up not clicking with the book. It is not a terrible book by any means and I know I am 100% the black sheep in how I felt about the book. You have no idea though how much I wanted to like this book as someone who also experiences diaspora AND started college at 17. Sometimes, things are just not meant to be though and I hope that other people will be able to find pleasure and goodness in American Panda.

two-half-stars

2.5 Hot Espressos

Liked But Didn’t Love: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Liked But Didn’t Love: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Posted by on 01/26/2018 • 2 Comments

I have no clue how I am supposed to start this review. I tried to explain to Nick how I felt about the book because we sorta buddy read it (she finished a day before I did) and it’s really hard to capture my overall reaction. There were bits that I loved but overall, The Wedding Date just didn’t make the impression I had hoped it would. It’s a total feel-good read and I want to see it on a big screen (this is the second time I am saying that about a book in the span of a month.)

I am a big romance reader but as Nick will tell you, I am really picky and want a very specific sort of vibe. I want the domestic scenes…

Complex and Feel-Good: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Complex and Feel-Good: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Posted by on 01/24/2018 • 9 Comments

Let’s Talk About Love surprised me. I went in expecting good vibes and it still blew my expectations out of the water. It is NOT a perfect book, I am nitpicky and its hard for books to be perfect for me, but Let’s Talk About Love is damn well a fantastic read that is worth your time.

Do you love a feel-good romance that will sweep you off your feet? Do you love reading about friendships that have true-to-life complexity? Do you love some angst (the good kind)? Let’s Talk About Love is an ode to not just romantic love but all kinds of love, it explores the complexities of all kinds of relationships and it’s just a GOOD BOOK.

So why am I a nit picky bastard? Well because…

‘Stranded in an Airport’ Story I’ve Been Waiting For: The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

‘Stranded in an Airport’ Story I’ve Been Waiting For: The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

Posted by on 01/12/2018 • 6 Comments

The first discovered Jessica Brody with 52 Reasons to Hate My Father. She immediately had my intention and I really wanted to read everything she wrote but I quickly found out that perhaps everything she wrote wasn’t for me. Which is unfortunate because I really enjoyed her writing style. But then I came The Chaos of Standing Still, a book that demanded my attention.

At 403 pages The Chaos of Standing Still is not a short book but don’t let it fool you. Those 403 pages FLY BY. There are books I’ve read where even 300 pages feel like they are too fucking much but Jessica Brody knows how to pace a story well. In fact she probably deserves an award because there have not been many times in my…

A Graphic Novel That You Most Definitely Need: Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

A Graphic Novel That You Most Definitely Need: Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Posted by on 11/03/2017 • 2 Comments

I’ve been waiting for Pashmina since I first heard it existed so when my friend got a copy, I dove into hers while I was visiting and also ended up coming home to a precious copy of my own (#SHOUTOUT.) I’ve already read it twice and there is a very huge possibility I’ll have read it a third time before the end of the year (and even the end of the month, tbh.) SO. I THINK it’s safe to say that I love Pashmina.

It’s already being marketed as such but I also just think Pashmina is perfect for fans of American Born Chinese. The books share so many wonderful qualities and parallels but Pashmina is still its own story and so so SO heartfelt at that. I mean, it even has Gene Luen Yang’s stamp…

Might Have Been Better In Verse: Wait for Me by An Na

Might Have Been Better In Verse: Wait for Me by An Na

Posted by on 11/02/2017 • 0 Comments

Wait for Me was a new-to-me title when it showed up on my (metaphorical) doorstep. I hadn’t heard much about it but upon some research found out it was being republished with a pretty new cover and all. I dove into the book not entirely sure what to expect but ready to meet new characters and enjoy a new story.

This review is a hard one to write because upon finishing, I am not entirely sure how I feel about Wait for Me. I am divided on it because there are parts of it I enjoyed and other parts that really made it hard for me to finish the book feeling like I had read something worthwhile.

I think the number one issue I had with the book was just the pacing…

A Letter To Nic Stone: Dear Martin

A Letter To Nic Stone: Dear Martin

Posted by on 10/25/2017 • 1 Comment

Dear Nic Stone,

I know you’ve had a lot of people already telling you this and my voice is no more important or valuable than theirs but thank you for writing this book. Thank you for giving this gift to the world.

You probably already know this but the world sucks right now and honestly, books like Dear Martin make it a little better. I am glad people will walk into a bookstore and pick this book up (and I know, I am going to be pushing it at literally anyone. I already got someone to check out a copy!)

This year has been chock full of amazing books (one of the few things that don’t suck about this year) and Dear Martin still stands out because it is so…

A Raw and Poignant Exploration of Mental Health: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

A Raw and Poignant Exploration of Mental Health: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

Posted by on 09/27/2017 • 6 Comments

Everyone raved about Our Chemical Hearts when it came out last year but because my tbr is overflowing and I am always short on time, I never did get around to reading it. A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares immediately caught my attention because it had such a cutesy title, cover & blurb but don’t let any of that fool you because this book will fucking break your heart.

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares is such a raw, poignant exploration of mental health and I don’t even know where to begin unpacking my feels for those books. (But also, can we all agree that unpacking feels for books you love is so much harder than talking about books you hate?)

Esther Solar believes her family has been cursed…