Book Reviews

Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

It’s hard to write a book review for books that so deeply move your heart. So if that sentence doesn’t sum up well enough why I loved American Panda I don’t know what will.


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?


book review american panda by gloria chao(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

There is no way I can write a coherent review about this book in paragraph form. So I’ll give you five reasons why I loved this book.

  1. The Themes were moving and gut wrenching. There is not only explorations of Mei’s family upbringing and culture, but it also delves into other families and parenting. This was just a whole thematic ball of emotions that cannot help but touch a chord within you. It’s not always pretty, but it’s real and raw and moving. It talks about the ways parents live through their children, the pressure that they exert when they lack control, and the complicated and sometimes fraught relationship. All of these are reflected in dazzling shades that defy this idea of black and white.
  2. The relationship between Mei and her mother. This turned me into an emotional mess. I absolutely loved reading it from both perspectives and Chao does a phenomenal job of showing both sides. There’s truly beautiful interactions between them and the emotional journey that both go on is enough to reduce me to tears right now just thinking about it.
  3. Mei’s character. Mei is amazing. She is a character that is both vulnerable and frustrating in the best of ways. She’s one of those characters who you can totally empathize with and so her cathartic journey is just even more moving.
  4. The title. Something I already touched on is Chao’s rejection of black and white. And that’s one of the reasons why this title is so fantastic. Not only is it a symbol of identity and expectations, but also this idea that some things are one way. It takes more to look beyond the black and white color, but also what you assume.
  5. I could totally buy the romance. No returns no exchanges. This wasn’t one of those times where it escalated strangely or the pacing was off. This was perfection and pie and everything sweet. I loved it and that we got to find out more about Darren.

You need American Panda and find it on Amazon(US), your local indie, and add it to Goodreads.


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6 thoughts on “Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

  1. I really want to read this! The cover is sooo adorable.

    I found some amazing mental health representation in Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater & Charley in the S.C.R.E.A.M series by Andrew Beasley was amazing disability rep (even if Charley is in a wheelchair & I’m not); it was so incredible being able to read a story where one of the main characters was getting on with her life but would still have her pain creeping up on her & her frustration over it all.


      It’s amazing and so touching the power that representation has. I don’t think I ever even realized it until last year, and then it clicked and I was like, damn so that’s what that feels like.

  2. This honestly sounds AMAZING!

    I can’t wait to get a hold of this book. I hope it gets published in the UK soon so that it’ll be able to get to Ireland soon!

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