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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gloria Chao's American Panda is about Mei Lu, a 17-year-old Taiwanese American freshman at MIT whose parents want her to become a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer. Chinese and Taiwanese culture play a large part in Mei's coming-of-age story, and there are Mandarin words and phrases sprinkled throughout the book. Strong language includes variations of "s--t," "f--k," "bitch," and "hell." Mei's mom constantly reminds her not to do "the sex" before marriage. College students get STDs, and there's a rumor about a girl becoming a stripper and "giving head" to support herself. Mei's dad is a smoker, and there's a rumor about a girl dealing heroin. Although Mei lies to her family throughout the book, her story has plenty of positive messages for teens about communication and courage.
What's the story?
In AMERICAN PANDA, 17-year-old Mei Lu's parents have already planned the perfect life for her: graduate from MIT, become a doctor, and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer. But her parents don't know about her fear of germs, her passion for dance, or her crush on Darren, her Japanese American classmate. When she reconnects with her estranged older brother, Mei begins to wonder if she'll ever be able to truly be herself without disappointing her parents or abandoning her Taiwanese culture.
Is it any good?
The emotional mother-daughter relationship, sweet interracial romance, and vivid college setting make this hilarious coming-of-age tale a must-read for teens. Mei's awkwardness plus her fear of germs and her mom's overprotective voicemails provide plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Some of the Mandarin words can be confusing, but you don't need to be Asian or a child of an immigrant to relate to American Panda. It's clear Mei has a deep respect for her family and culture, but her longing for independence is equally strong. Readers will root for her as she figures out a way to embrace both cultures while staying true to herself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the generational conflict in American Panda. Do your grandparents or parents have values or traditions you think are old-fashioned and have no place in today's world?
Talk about the various kinds of diversity in the novel. Why are diverse representations important in children's and young adult literature?
Mother-daughter relationships can be fraught with tension and strong bonds. Do any of the conflicts in the book sound familiar to you?
- Author: Gloria Chao
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon Pulse
- Publication date: February 6, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.