American Panda – Gloria Chao

35297380American Panda by Gloria Chao

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: Publisher
First Published: February 6th, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Recommended Age: 11+
Pacing: Fast
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, College, Romance, Culture, Family Relationships


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.


This should have been a winner. Mei, the main character, is Taiwanese-American. She is a college student. I could probably count on one hand the number of YA novels with college settings that are published every year.

The culture is great. Every chapter introduces the reader to a new characteristic of the Chinese culture. Some, however, are not well explained, such as why certain numbers are considered bad luck, but most are fairly straight-forward.

But the problem is that even if this book is clearly diverse and actually an easy read, I feel as though I have read this story already… about a hundred times before.

Let me explain. Mei’s parents are old-fashioned and extremely demanding. Mei cannot do one thing without their permission unless it is something that improves her grades or physique. She is constantly being compared to her brother and other people who her parents consider to be ‘‘rebels’’ or ‘‘failures’’.

I am certain that this all sounds familiar to you, too. To me, this (super controlling and demanding parents) is a trope. I did not give much thought to it in the beginning, since I was captivated by the Chinese culture presented, but after a hundred pages I began to lose interest.

The other problem is that while I would not say that this is an unrealistic story, the author does stretch reality here and there. For instance, the Asian doctor she meets at the hospital early in the story seemed to exist only to make Mei realize medicine may not be the right area for her.

And unfortunately, her Japanese love interest did not make me swoon. He is cute, I admit, but so are a thousand other boys. What makes this one special? Not that much… Plus I did notice an insta-love vibe.

Not a very surprising story. I appreciated the culture and diversity, as I have mentioned many times, so thank you Gloria Chao for writing this book, because I bet new readers of the YA genre will enjoy it more.


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2 thoughts on “American Panda – Gloria Chao

  1. I’ve been seeing a lot of this book lately, and honestly I was pretty excited for it. I love getting to learn about new cultures. But you are right. This does sound like something that has been done a million times before. And at this point I have zero patience for the insta-love trope. I’m honestly so tired of it.
    Great review!


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