REVIEW: American Panda by Gloria Chao // MY MOST ANTICIPATED READ OF 2018!!

american_pandaTitle: American Panda

Author: Gloria Chao

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 311

Release Date: February 6, 2018



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?



As all of y’all most-likely know by now, American Panda was my most anticipated release of 2018. That being said, I raised my expectations for this book sky-high. So high, in fact, that it might as well have been in space floating around with the stars. I set myself up for disappointment.

I would say that this book somewhat met my expectations, but since my expectations were set so high, I was bound to be slightly disappointed. Notice how I said slightly because I still loved this book so much.

That aside, I absolutely adore this book. This is largely due to the protagonist, Mei. I’ve talked about how I usually don’t like YA heroines before and so it’s rare for me to like a heroine let alone adore one so much.

She’s hard-working in everything she does. This is mainly due to her wanting to please her parents, but in dance – her true passion – she puts everything into making her dance absolutely perfect. She wants to be the perfect daughter that becomes a doctor as her parent’s wish, but she’s scared of germs and doesn’t like to study medicine.

She’s respectful of her parents and what they’ve had to sacrifice in order to give her a comfortable life in the States, but she also has a passion that is the complete opposite of what her parents want for her. Throughout the book she is confronting these feelings and starts to think for herself. The character development in this book was wonderful as she came to terms with what she wants versus what her parents want. I loved seeing this healthily explored in a YA book.


Something that’s a huge part of this book is family and culture. I liked this because although it’s labelled as a romance, the romance aspect of the book wasn’t a center focus at all. Family and culture was a much larger focus of the book, something I was hoping for when I went into this book.

There was the stereotypical over-controlling cultural Chinese parents, which I think is important to avoid including in books where minorities are written due to giving into stereotypes and making people that aren’t part of that minority thinking that that’s how everyone in that minority are.

People like to generalize, so the little rep that is given to minorities is how the majority chooses to see the minority. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how the world works. So, with that being said, I still thought that this book was able to incorporate the stereotypes without going overboard, showing the layers of people who have to balance two cultures and expectations as first generation immigrants. Because although stereotypes aren’t always true, they stem from somewhere so in some cases stereotypes are real.

I absolutely adored this book. Mei’s voice is funny and filled with so much heart and compassion and need to be herself, even though we’re quite different as people, Chau wrote so I was able to connect with her and feel for everything she went through.

There was also the issue of conflict between the Chinese and Japanese that was dealt with as Mei has a crush on a Japanese boy in her school. Her parents, of course, don’t approve since he’s Japanese and ‘he’ killed their family. I think that this was an important thing for Chau to incorporate in her book because the only other book I’ve read with a topic similar to this was Pachinko, but these take place in different time periods so it was interesting to see how the generations compared.


My Rating: 4.5

I don’t know why but I can’t bring myself to rate this 5 stars?? Like, I really enjoyed it but 5 stars doesn’t feel right. I think we all have books like these. There wasn’t necessarily anything that I can pinpoint in particular that I didn’t like but it doesn’t feel like a full 5 stars. I could still fangirl about this for days solely for it’s existence.


TW: Racism

Purchase This Book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository

Have you read American Panda? Do you plan on reading it? Do you have a favorite book set in college? Do you like the college setting and wish there were more YA books set in college?

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21 thoughts on “REVIEW: American Panda by Gloria Chao // MY MOST ANTICIPATED READ OF 2018!!

    1. Hehe I really showed my excitement on Twitter didn’t I? xD I wasn’t originally going to discuss it but it was actually a very important aspect of the book and from other reviews I read, the stereotype was a turn-off for them so I felt a need to delve into the topic. Hopefully what I said made sense and wasn’t a bunch of gibberish haha! Thanks for stopping by on your blog hop 🙂


  1. This is one of my most anticipated reads as well but now, I’ll definitely go in with lower expectations!! This book sounds so adorable though and I can’t wait to see how the author dealt was the representation of the social norms. Loved your review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wasn’t thay excited about this before but you definitely got me hyped! Adding it to the TBR. It seems to have a few problematic things here and there but I hope it’s indeed nothing much!
    Great review! 🌻💛

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s not exactly ‘problematic’ – but it really all depends on how you look at it. It can be problematic if you use what’s in the book to generalize. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I can’t wait to read this one! It sounds like such a good read (it already had me at American PANDA lol). I know what you mean with not being able to give a book 5 stars, even though there’s nothing wrong with it! Sometimes a book just misses that spark that makes it a 5-star read 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh I get that feeling – sometimes you just can’t exactly say why this was a 4,5 instead of a 5 stars, this happens to me all the time 😂 I’m so glad you enjoyed this book so much though – I recently read it and loved it as well, Mei was such a great main character and like you said, I loved the sweet romance, but also the fact that it didn’t overwhelm us too much and that there was still a great family focus and everything 🙂 x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s so frustrating and it seems to happen to me quite often haha. I’m so happy you enjoyed it! The family focus is something I always love seeing in books so seeing it in American Panda made me happy

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah it can – I try not to do it to myself but it ended up happening anyways. I’m happy it was still a great book though!


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