Snapshot Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Title: American Panda
Author: Gloria Chao
Series: N/A
Pages: 311
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: February 6th 2018

TW: Fatphobia

      “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?.”

swirl (2)

“But with each burst of energy, I didn’t feel release. Something was different. My feet slipped on the tile that should have caressed my toes and allowed me to turn endlessly. My limbs didn’t feel like extensions of my body—they were burdens, weighing me down and dragging me around. The wind through my hair wasn’t refreshing—it made my head pound with bursts of pain.”

  • Mei – I really enjoyed Mei’s voice, found her to be very relatable, and her overall journey to be a really rewarding story to read.
  • Growing up and apart from your parents – I really liked that this one not only focused on growing up, but how this sometimes means growing apart from your parents. I think letting teens know that you might not agree with your parents’ values as you grow older isn’t a bad thing.
  • Parental expectations vs individual dreams – Mei’s parents want her to become a doctor, but because of her germaphobia, she fears she will never be able to make it through med school. She also has a passion for dance, one that was only supported by her parents when they believed it could help her get into college.
  • Sibling relationship – My favorite relationship in this one was Mei’s with her older brother Xing. He’s been estranged from his family and when the two reconnect with one another, it made me unexpectedly emotional. I loved that despite their different relationship with their parents, they find a way to support one another.
  • Adult characters also get a chance to learn about themselves – Mei’s character arc is really important, but I loved that she isn’t the only one who learns things about themselves. Several adult characters are pushed out of their comfort zone and while most of them don’t change, it made me incredibly happy to see those who did grow.

  • Stereotypes – I mention this only because I’ve seen many reviews complain of the unflattering stereotypes in this novel that involve Mei’s parents and other relatives. They come across as very rigid, unreasonable, and overbearing. I personally believe #OwnVoices books should have the freedom to explore stereotypical characters, but this might be a turn off for some readers.

  • Gloria Chao’s American Panda focuses on a Taiwanese-American teen straddling the fence between two cultures and is ultimately a cathartic story about finding out who you are despite all the external voices telling you who you should be.

★★★★
(4/5)

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6 thoughts on “Snapshot Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

  1. Wonderful review, Alicia! I’m really happy you enjoyed this one, I had a great time reading it as well. I found lovely and so important the discussions on dreams and parents expectations vs. the child’s dream, expectations and own goals in life, too 🙂

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  2. I read this before it came out, and really enjoyed it. It had way more depth, than I expected, too. Mei was definitely the best thing about this book, and I liked all the healing they did as a family too.

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  3. I saw this book last year when I was reading for possible Printz books but I didn’t pick it up. It does sound like it has some stereotypes but ones we can learn from.

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  4. Great review and I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it also! I know people criticize the stereotypes, but I surprisingly found them relatable. Mei’s unbending parents and even the funny messages from her mother and aunt reminded me a lot of my own mother and aunt. I loved this book and am always happy to see more people talking about it!

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