American Panda

American Panda

by Gloria Chao

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Overview

“Weepingly funny.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Delightful.” —Buzzfeed
“Charmed my socks off.” —David Arnold, New York Times bestselling author of Kids of Appetite and Mosquitoland


Four starred reviews for this 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?

From debut author Gloria Chao comes a hilarious, heartfelt tale of how, unlike the panda, life isn’t always so black and white.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 11/20/2017
Mei is only 17 and already a freshman at MIT, but her Taiwanese immigrant parents won’t be satisfied until she has a medical degree, a Taiwanese doctor husband, and children. To ensure the success of this plan, Mei’s mother monitors Mei’s behavior, calling constantly, nagging her to be more feminine, and engineering meet-ups with approved boys. But there’s so much her parents don’t know: the boy Mei likes is Japanese American, she’s too germophobic to be a doctor, and she’d rather be dancing. Worse, she’s in touch with the brother her parents disowned when he failed to meet family standards. Chao’s effervescent debut explores topics and themes that are salient for all teens—finding oneself and establishing an identity separate from one’s family—and perhaps even more so for children of immigrants, who have a foot in two cultures and an ever-present awareness of the sacrifices their parents have made. With sensitivity and an abundance of humor, Chao captures Mei’s growing realization that her desires are worth pursuing and the way that this discovery eventually brings Mei and her mother closer together. Ages 12–up. Agent: Kathleen Rushall, Andrea Brown Literary. (Feb.)

From the Publisher

Seventeen Magazine’s Best YA Novels of 2018
Bustle’s Best YA Book of 2018
PopSugar‘s Most Riveting YA Book of 2018
A Chicago Public Library Best YA Book of 2018
A Paste Magazine Best YA Book of 2018
Booklist’s Best Debut YA Book of 2018
A Junior Library Guild Selection
YMCA’s Summer Reading List for Teens

“Weepingly funny.” The Wall Street Journal

“Delightful.” Buzzfeed

“Vibrant and bright.” —Bustle

“Beautifully told.” Hypable

“A soulful and hilarious debut.”Booklist, starred review

“Effervescent.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Universal.” School Library Journal, starred review

“This deserves a place on every shelf, though it will not stay there long.” —VOYA, starred review

“Eye-opening, hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking.” —Shelf Awareness

“An earnest, funny, and emotional story.” Book Riot

American Panda is an absolute delight; an insightful, incisive, and often hilarious story of one girl's struggle to balance her family's expectations against her own secret ambitions. Overflowing with wit and empathy, Chao's debut charmed my socks off.” —David Arnold, New York Times bestselling author of Kids of Appetite and Mosquitoland

“A charming and hilarious tale of a precocious Taiwanese American walking the tightrope of family expectations...in ice skates. Mei Lu is a goofy, lovable American teenager. I loved her.” —Stacey Lee, award-winning author of Outrun the Moon

"Incredibly timely, honest, and moving—the must-read book of the season!" —Sandhya Menon, New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi

“A dazzling debut that hooked me with its humor and heart from the very first page.” —Lisa Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Magician

“The perfect coming of age story for anyone who's ever felt unsure of where they belong. —Kerri Maniscalco, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Stalking Jack the Ripper

School Library Journal

★ 02/01/2018
Gr 9 Up—Mei Lu is out of place at MIT and everywhere else in her life. At 17, she is younger than all of the other college freshmen. In her Taiwanese family, she is struggling against her parents' expectations of med school and an approved marriage. Mei is a dancer at heart with a lifelong dream of opening a dance studio, and her fear of germs is another strike against her future as a doctor. As she fights to create her own place in the world, she must also restore her relationship with her exiled brother and figure out how her crush on a Japanese fellow student fits into her traditional family's expectations. The college experience is a unique and welcome setting, and the Mandarin language woven throughout creates a rich reading experience. Mei's relationship with her parents is emotionally complex, with deeply ingrained cultural traditions and biases in sharp contrast to the life Mei imagines for herself. While Chao writes in the author's note that this is just one story of one Taiwanese American experience, the themes of defying parental expectations, following dreams, and fighting to belong are universal. VERDICT A first purchase for libraries serving teens.—Kate Olson, Bangor School District, WI

Kirkus Reviews

2017-11-22
A Taiwanese-American girl finally starts to experience life beyond her overbearing parents.Mei, a 17-year-old freshman at MIT, has followed her parents' plans so far. Now all she has to do is get into a good medical school, become a doctor, and marry a nice Taiwanese boy. But with some distance from her parents (living in the Boston suburbs, they still demand to see her at weekly check-ins), Mei starts to buckle under the weight of their expectations and the truths she discovers about herself: she's a germophobe who can't stomach the thought of medical school. She really, really likes Darren, a Japanese-American classmate. Unfortunately, a thinly drawn cast of characters (an old friend appears in just one chapter to make a point) and heavy-handed first-person reflections ("She didn't know anything about them, my situation, how hard it was to straddle two cultures") sometimes read more as a book about cultural stereotypes and self-discovery than a compelling, fully fleshed novel. Awkwardly specific and quickly dated cultural references such as a Facebook check-in and an explanation of the term "hack" jar readers from the narrative. Nonetheless, Chao's inclusions of an Asian male romantic interest, a slightly nontraditional Asian female lead (size 8 with a big nose and "man-laugh"), and casual Mandarin dialogue are welcome and will appeal to uninitiated readers.A worthy story that stumbles. (author's note) (Fiction. 12-17)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481499101
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 549,798
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

American Panda
Voicemail from my mother

Remember Amberly Ahn? She had eyelid surgery and it turned out great. We should think about doing that for you. Maybe we can tattoo your makeup on at the same time. Remember, there are no ugly women, only lazy women. Repeat that three times every morning.

And don’t forget, “mei” means “beautiful” in Chinese. Live up to the name I chose for you.

Oh, and it’s your muqin.

Customer Reviews