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?
As a daughter of immigrant Chinese parents myself, I relate to this book in so many levels. When I was in high school, I also got sent to Taiwan for a study tour. The main difference was that I went willingly and with my friends, as opposed to Ever who didn’t like the idea. Being born in a different country and growing up with various influences, I also failed to love the part of me that is Chinese at a young age. Seeing Ever’s struggles, especially with her parents, I know that those are genuine because I have experienced the same things myself.
Loveboat, Taipei was an easy and cute read, but filled with so much substance and meaning. I loved all the friendships that formed within the novel, the easiness with which they all kind of related to each other. I really loved how I enjoyed even the minor characters, especially the boys who took Asian stereotypes into their own hands. I also loved the accurate Mandarin sentences in the novel, and I’m kind of proud that I understood them. (Take that, 13 years of Mandarin lessons!)
I really enjoyed reading this book, but I would have liked it better if it explored the culture and country more. I really wanted more details about tradition and a better description of the night markets and the amazing food because this book was in the position to do so. It had so much potential to educate others about our culture and it failed a little bit in that aspect for me. But then again, it might be a personal bias, because the main story was really well-written and relatable not only for those of Chinese descent, but for every teenager out there.