My rating: 4 of 5 stars
American Panda is an adorable contemporary book that follows Mei as she navigates the line between her dreams and her parents’. As a Taiwanese-American, she struggles with the expectations her parents have of her as a perfect, dutiful daughter who is a doctor. Unfortunately, biology bores her and she hates germs.
I really enjoyed reading about her journey and getting to know Mei. Her struggle felt authentic and I really felt for her plight. It’s tough to want something other than what your parents expect from you and she cannot imagine a world in which she defies them. I appreciated the diversity and representation that this book provides to the YA book world, as it is great to see the main character represented on the cover and the book was own voices.
Darren was my favourite character in the book and I liked how he balanced Mei’s character. He was Japanese-American, but didn’t have the same expectations from his parents. Although they wanted him close to home he realized that he needed to do what is best for him. He provided us with a different view of the situation, and he was very likable.
Their interactions were super cute and so classic YA contemporary. It was a nice break from the fantasy that I had been reading and exactly the palate cleanser that I needed. I was rooting for them the entire time because they were so adorable.
Despite the less than perfect family dynamic, I really loved seeing the depth that Chao gave to her characters. They felt authentic with their ups and downs, fights and struggles, as well as uplifting feelings of support that shone through at times.
I was really impressed by the fact that Gloria Chao is a debut author. The pacing was good and the plot was engaging, but the characters are what shone for me. This is definitely the perfect “feel good” YA contemporary book to lift your mood and make you have all the feels.