My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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I Owe You One
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Thursday, February 8, 2018

ARC Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.  Also I participate in the Amazon Affiliate program.  If you purchase the book through the links on this page I will get a small fee.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
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?

Even though this book is about the experiences of an Asian-American teen and the pressure to maintain her cultural traditions, I totally related to this book.   The story of Mei, and her epic clash with her parent's wishes, is a universal one, of a young person breaking free of her childhood and finding her own way.  This was a highly entertaining and, at times, heartbreaking book.

What I Liked:

Mei is caught between trying to be respectful of her parents, and following her own path.  Her parents, with the best of intentions, have planned out her life:  where she should go to college, what her major will be, her career as a doctor, and even who she will marry!  As her parents hold the purse strings, she feels compelled to do as they say. 

I loved reading Mei's struggles as I went through some very similar situations with my own family.  her need for independence is wrapped in guilt and fear.  What will her parents do if she doesn't tow the line?  Will they disown her as they did to her brother when he didn't follow the rules?

I also really loved Mei's mother.  Most chapters finish with voicemails from her mom which are annoying for Mei, but also funny and heartbreaking.  Mei's mom truly loves her daughter, Mei's father is overbearing and unreasonable.  She seems afraid of him.  Although it was not explicitly stated in the book, I felt that maybe he was physically abusive toward her.  He certainly was verbally abusive. 

Nicolette is Mei's roommate and a super fun character.  At first I thought she would just be a two-dimensional character, but she eventually becomes a bigger part of the story.  She is also trying to adjust to her sudden independence and popularity.  She helps Mei to do more than just study and worry over her situation.  

The author obviously went to MIT, where the book is set.  The many small details of MIT life are every present in this novel. The propensity for pranks (this was the school to come up with the term hack), the special little nooks, and traditions all made me want to go to this school!

What do you do when your parents and your brother are alienated?  Mei really doesn't want to choose sides, but feels pressure from both her brother and her parents.  With her dad holding the purse strings, she has a real fear of losing out on going to college if she defies him.  Even though the situations seemed extreme at times, I know these kinds of things really happen in real life.  

I don't think I will spoil anything by revealing that there is not a tidy ending where everyone learns an important lesson.  That is not real life.  Instead we see a more realistic version of their ongoing issues. This was very refreshing.  

What I Was Mixed About:
The book hints at Mei having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  She is super worried about germs and uses excessive amounts of hand sanitizer.  I wish this had been more of a focus in the book.  I feel like this problem was used for comic effect more than really dealing with why Mei was so preoccupied with germs.  I think it was a missed opportunity.



Release Date: February 6th, 2018

Genre:  YA Fiction

Publisher:  Simon Pulse

Page Length:  320 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  PDF

Recommendation:  This book was fun, and also gave depth to the stereotype of the "Smart Asian Kid".  You'll adore the main character, Mei, and wish you could go to MIT!

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2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


80% 80% 100 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge
clean sweep 2017

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