American Panda

American Panda

Book - 2018
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A freshman at MIT, seventeen-year-old Mei Lu tries to live up to her Taiwanese parents' expectations, but no amount of tradition, obligation, or guilt prevent her from hiding several truths-- that she is a germaphobe who cannot become a doctor, she prefers dancing to biology, she decides to reconnect with her estranged older brother, and she is dating a Japanese boy. Can she find a way to be herself, before her web of lies unravels?
Publisher: New York :, Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division,, 2018
Edition: First Simon Pulse hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781481499101
Branch Call Number: TEEN CHA
Characteristics: 310 pages ; 22 cm


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Aug 11, 2020

This book is about a Taiwanese girl named Mei, whose parents want her to grow up to be a doctor, marry another Taiwanese man, and be successful. They have Mei's entire life plotted out for her. However, Mei hates germs and really doesn't want to be a doctor. The book follows Mei's journey and how she changes herself and her life.
I was honestly quite surprised about how incredibly well-written this book was. The book plot and characters are both so similar to real life, so I could totally relate to it. Some of the things that Mei went through, including stress about making her parents proud, being successful, and more were extremely similar to what I feel. To put it simply, this book was SUPER relatable. I also loved seeing how each of the characters changed over the course of the book.
I really liked how the book had a lot of Taiwanese culture stuff in it. I enjoyed the occasional Taiwanese words that were thrown in and how she talked about her culture.
I finished this book in one night. Not joking. I got the book at around 10 PM and finished it at 2 AM the same night. I couldn't put it down! I liked how the book wasn't just a sob story, but also had other components to it, such as humor, drama, and romance. There were some topics in the book that totally shocked me, as I had never read a book that mentioned them. (not going to give them away, read the book to find out!)
I would definitely recommend that high school students read this book, as it is a really, really great read if you are struggling with what you want to do in the future, not sure if you should follow what's practical or your dreams, and if you have other questions like that.

jcljessicaj Apr 22, 2020

Mei's parents have her life all planned out for her, but what she wants out of life couldn't be further from those plans. What's a girl to do? I really enjoyed this story because I got a glimpse into a family life that's new to me. I was immediately invested in the story knowing all the characters were just trying to do what they thought was the right thing.

Jan 27, 2020

I tried to read this several times but I was continuously thrown off by the foreign words. Although this is a good concept and I appreciate the writer's attempt to make the book realistic, it really didn't work for me.

DCLkids Feb 13, 2019

A Great Books for Great Kids pick. American Panda delves into the cultural challenges of Mei, a Taiwanese American who must learn how to manage her strict parents' expectations as she begins her freshman year of college. As this charming heroine begins to make independent decisions, will her newfound independence cause a permanent rift with her family? Grades 7-8.

LiztheLibrarian Dec 17, 2018

I really enjoyed this book and if you don't speak Chinese, giving the audiobook a listen is really great because you're hearing it pronounced/spoken correctly. This is a great own voices teen read.

LPL_EricaS Aug 06, 2018

I read this book, because I love a good laugh and it was billed as hilarious. While there weren't as many laugh-out-loud moments as I hoped for, it was a good story about a Taiwanese-American teen trying to find a path in life that honors her parents, but feels true to herself. Mei is only 17 and a freshman at MIT. She's horrified to learn that she can't overcome her germophobic ways and slowly realizes that her parents' dream of her being a doctor might be unobtainable with her squeamish reactions to even the littlest medical problems. Mei's family and tightly knit Taiwanese community force pressures upon their children that if not realized often result in disowning the children that don't live up to expectations. Mei's own brother is one of those disowned children. The witty dialogue and funny moments, like an embarrassing skin rash from new jeans, lightens the mood as Mei learns what is most important to her and finds a way to challenge old traditions.

JCLHebahA May 14, 2018

This book hits a wide range of emotional notes, from the giddy delight of falling in love to the heavy weight of trying to balance overwhelming and guilt-inducing parental expectations with personal autonomy. Readers who have grown up with first-generation immigrant parents will likely see aspects of their experience in Mei's story (even if their experiences aren't as extreme), but it's also a sympathetic window for those not of a similar background.

May 01, 2018

American Panda has a misleading cover. From first glance, it seems like this book would be a cute, fluffy read -- and it is in parts. This book also at times takes a bit of a darker tone, which is rather unexpected. Even with that tonal shift at times, I happily want to recommend this book.

This book follows the story of Mei, a Taiwanese-American girl who has very strict parents. Her family wants her to be a doctor, marry someone who is Taiwanese and also aspiring to a similar career. Under no circumstances is Mei allowed to date someone who is not Taiwanese or approved by her parents. In fact, her parents already have Mei's life plotted out for her.

This was such a difficult read for me at times as I found myself sympathizing with Mei a lot. I recognize that I am not Asian and have never had this experience, but I was a former ESL teacher whose main clientele were all Asian, and on numerous occasions I would have conversations with my students about their home lives and parent's expectations. It broke my heart a lot of the time given many of the teens I dealt with just wanted to be understood by their parents, and you definitely see that here with Mei. She wants her parents approval, but she still also wants to be her own individual with her own choices being made. There is a huge tug-and-pull between following traditions and choosing your path in this story, and it makes for an interesting story, if one I've heard many times before.

Some of my favourite parts of this book were Mei's interactions with her disowned brother, Xing. Xing and Mei's re-connection is one of the strongest parts of this story as it gives you a lot of insight into just how important certain traditions to older generations. Being Italian, I oddly can understand this given many Italian parents only want their children to marry other Italians. I really just loved how close the siblings became given the circumstances involving Xing's becoming disgraced.

One area where this book didn't quite work for me was some of the humour. I found it to be pretty hit-or-miss, and oddly found myself loving the book more when it was about the family relationships and less about Mei's interest in Darren (though I'll admit, they were very cute!). I really felt for Mei's mother in the story, regardless of how overbearing she was.

American Panda is a story I've read before, but one I still very much enjoyed. I found Mei's perspective very informative and her feelings were completely worn on her sleeve. She's a girl I definitely found myself connecting with even though our circumstances are so different. Don't let this fluffy, cheerful cover fool you -- Gloria Chao doesn't shy away from punching the reader in the feelings.

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Aug 14, 2018

donutwombat thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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