Saturday, February 8, 2020

Review: LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI by Abigail Hing Wen

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I liked this book way more than I expected to. The only reason I read it is that it’s this month’s book club pick; I don’t normally read young adult contemporaries/romances anymore so I thought from the beginning that this wasn’t going to be my thing. It started okay: it was entertaining and funny, but it also seemed basic, average, and shallow to me. It was going along alright until we got to the part where Ever and her friends go out partying and get drunk and make poor decisions and just that whole section of the book had me almost quitting it, but I decided to push through because it was a quick read, and I’m so glad I did. The story picked up immensely, and Ever and all the characters started evaluating their actions and making much better decisions.

I loved the Chinese culture in this book. Ever is Chinese American, and both of those cultures are part of her life, but she doesn’t start to appreciate her Chinese heritage until she goes to Taipei and meets other people like her. The struggles she and her parents experienced felt very real to me, and I’m sure many readers can relate. I loved the little bits of information we got about Mandarin and food in Taipei and the nightlife there—basically, the setting was very genuine.

I also really loved Ever as a character. She really grows up in the short two months that span this book. At first, she’s making bad decisions just to rebel against her parents’ strict rules; eventually though, she learns that she doesn’t want to rebel, she just wants to be herself, who she has never felt she’s been able to be, which leads her to make different choices. She has to reconcile her parents’ desire for her to be a doctor with her desire to be a dancer, without disappointing them. This book really is about coming of age and learning who you are and what you want out of life, but it’s also about the importance of family and strong friends. Even though the word “Loveboat” is in the title and there definitely is romance in this book, I would say that the romance is a secondary plot to the storyline of Ever discovering herself.

Ultimately I ended up really enjoying Loveboat, Taipei, and I do plan to read the sequel whenever it comes out, which I would have been shocked to hear myself say a week ago. This book was cute and fun and a fast read, but it also was meaningful and empowering, and I loved that. I think anyone who has Chinese heritage would really connect with this book, but it can definitely be enjoyed by anyone else, too.

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