When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.
Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.
Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart?
When I first read the synopsis for Loveboat, Taipei, I really wanted to love it. I’m all for diverse stories being published, and this one, set at a study abroad program in Taipei, sounded so interesting! Unfortunately, regardless of how much I wanted to love it, I had a number of problems with the story.
The first problem I had was that this book is basically just a racier version of American Panda. Let’s break this down. Both books feature a Chinese main character born to immigrant parents who have sacrificed a lot to get the main character where they are. Both books feature a main character whose parents want her to be a doctor, and both books feature characters that don’t want to be doctors because of a phobia of blood/germs. Both books feature characters who would actually rather pursue a career dancing professionally, but both sets of parents do not support this career choice. Where Loveboat, Taipei deviates from American Panda is in the middle section of the book, in which the author attempts to tackle about 1500 issues, which I’ll address below.
There was far too much going on in this book. The book is 432 pages, which is pretty long for a YA contemporary, and it’s only that long because the author tries to tackle so many different issues. There was no reason for there to be so many dramatic events in this book, especially given that few of the events are ever resolved. You can’t just throw a ton of issues at a book haphazardly and expect everything to work out in the end.
A list of things that happen in this book, many of which could be triggering to some readers:depression, suicidal ideation/threat/attempt, graphic knife injury, abusive parents, abusive relationship (physical & emotional), leaked nude photos, victim blaming, racism, sex (not at all realistically portrayed, in my opinion), cheating, parent injured in car accident, very questionable drag scene that comes out of nowhere
Finally, everything wraps up far too neatly and far too easily at the end. Ever is unrealistically mature about everything, forgiving everyone for things that should definitely not be forgiven and conveniently achieving several goals she’d set for herself with seemingly few roadblocks. All of the problems are just forgotten, probably (hopefully??) to be addressed in the (entirely unnecessary) sequel.
I can see how some readers might enjoy this story, but it wasn’t for me.
Have you read Loveboat, Taipei? Is it on your TBR?
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