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FICTION

American Panda

320p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481499101.
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RedReviewStarGr 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.

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