*I got this copy in exchange for an honest review*
What is it about?
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? (goodreads)
Book: Loveboat, Taipei
Author: Abigail Hing Wen
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK Children’s
Pub Date: 7th January 2020
Rep: Chinese American, Korean American, Taiwanese, black Chinese American, gay, dyslexia
TW: blood, alcohol, physical abuse, mental illness
What did I think?
While I had some problems in the beginning, this book turned out to be fantastic. Why the problems, you may wonder. And to be honest, I wonder as well. I guess I just had to warm to the story and its characters. But the more I read, the more Loveboat, Taipei sucked me in and it ended with me reading the last few chapter barely able to keep my eyes open but I had to finish it before going to sleep.
This book follows Ever, who just wants to dance, but her strict parents want her to become a doctor. When they fly her off to Taipei for a summer school program, it seems like her dream of dancing is destroyed forever. But she soon learns that the school is basically one big party where young people go to have fun and meet a good partner. But being a part of those parties means breaking rules. Rules, her parents set up over the years, like dressing modestly, no boys (and everything boys bring with them), good grades always, or no alcohol. Those roles and their consequences have been burned into Ever’s head but for the first time in her life she is free from her parents and gets to live how she wants to.
So she fully throws herself into parties, clubs, boys and defying rules. She learns that there is a lot she didn’t know and she slowly frees herself of her parents’ influence and expectations. Even though she has the constant mantras and rules from them in her ear, she learns to think for herself and to accept herself. Ever is on the path of finding herself and standing up for her and for others. This is a summer full of possibilities for her, of making friends, of boys and just having fun and being the self she had to subdue all her life. But of course, rule breaking doesn’t come without consequences and eventually people get hurt.
I also liked the side characters. I had a feeling of where this was going, but there was so much happening. I mean, put 500 teenagers and young adults who all only want to party and have sex, I guess you have to expect drama. And boy there was a lot of that. Relationship drama, friendship drama, curfew drama, alcohol drama. And I loved it. This was so much fun to read, especially thanks to this amazing set of characters. Sophie, the bubbly best friend, Xavier the rich player and Rick who’s Sophie’s cousin and has weird mood changes being the most important ones. Their dynamics were so well written, the changes between them and how everyone reacted to the things around them. Their talents and wishes and dreams. I couldn’t get enough of them.
I also loved the descriptions of growing up Asian American, how hard it was for most of them, the stereotypes, the obstacles they’ve all encountered. There was even a little bit of politics in their discussions. And their views of their differents cultures and backgrounds. It was so interesting to read. What I especially enjoyed were the language parts. I’m a total sucker for languages and am always excited to see other languages than English in books, in this case Mandarin. I guess I have a new language to occupy myself with now.
So Loveboat, Taipei is basically a story about finding yourself and most importantly, accepting who you are. It’s a story of testing boundaries and of finding out what you want to do with your life. It shows how important it is to stand up for yourself and for others and to do what you love and fight for it.