Seventeen-year-old Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. This means swapping her congee lunch for PB&Js, ignoring the clueless racism from her classmates and teachers, and keeping her mouth shut when people wrongly call her Allie instead of her actual name, pronounced Āh-lěe, after the mountain in Taiwan. Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid in school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to the “they belong together” whispers, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face. But when Ali’s mom finds out about the relationship, she forces Ali to end it. As Ali covertly digs into the why behind her mother’s disapproval, she uncovers secrets about her family and Chase that force her to question everything she thought she knew about life, love, and her unknowable future.
I really loved American Panda. It was such a light, fluffy, funny, and amazingly written book. I was really looking forward to reading another one of Gloria’s books! After American Panda, I will honestly read anything that she writes. This one sounded different than her debut, more secrets and more delving into characters, but I was still really, really looking forward to it!
This book is very different from American Panda. It’s a realistic look at life. It’s not as light, but it definitely still has the signature humor sprinkled throughout! I wasn’t expecting what this book was. It took me a bit to get used to, and I don’t think I loved it as much as I loved American Panda, but it’s still a really fantastic book. I think a lot of people are going to fall head over heels for it and I’m really glad it exists.
Since this book is so different than what I expected, it took me a bit to get used to. It sort of threw me for a loop at the beginning and it took me a bit to get into it. I never feel completely into the rhythm of the book, but I was still able to fly through it. It keeps you entranced.
I am so completely different from Ali. But I was still able to connect with her and I still really, really loved her character. She’s a badass. She’s fed up. She’s angry. She’s working on communicating better. She’s weird. She’s awkward. She’s frustrated. Her journey, both physically and emotionally was so amazing to read. She wants to make her life her own. She wants to make her choices herself. She’s swamped in secrets and she wants that to stop. She’s a really special character. She’s so complicated because she’s so human. I loved that that was able to shine through so much.
Ali’s family has so many secrets. I was honestly shocked when they all came to light. It’s a family mess. Everything got so tangled up through life that nobody really knew where to start untangling. I really liked that aspect of the book. It allowed Ali to delve into what she wanted in life and examine her emotions toward her parents, to herself, and to everything really. It allowed the book to have so much depth.
Gloria Chao has a way with humor and this book is another showcase of that. Though, I felt like some of the jokes were kind of stilted and kind of awkward. Some of them just missed the mark for me.
I didn’t love the romance aspect to it. It happened so fast. It wouldn’t call it insta-love, but it was in that kind of realm. Then again, so much was involved in their meeting and their early conversations. They connected so deeply, so fast. I’m just not personally a fan of romances that happen in the blink of an eye!
There was a lot of this book that happened really fast. But honestly, I think that happened because a lot of stuff flew over my head. Which I completely fine with. It was written for Asian American teens, and me, a whiter than white teen, was going to miss some stuff and not be able to connect with certain elements. I know this book is going to mean the world for some people and I so hope this book makes its way into their hands. It’s such a real look at racism, microaggressions, anger, miscommunication, secrets, and familial turmoil. It’s incredibly written and Ali, Chase, and Yun are easy to fall in love with. This is just a really important, really good book.
Thank you for reading!