American Panda by Gloria Chao

Genre: YA contemporary
Secondary genre: romance
Representation: OCD coding, East Asian (multiple, mostly Taiwanese)
Content warning: “tricky families”
Format read: ebook
Rating: planchet-5

Mei’s parents have a PLAN. After graduating early and attending MIT, she’s going to become a doctor, marry a nice Taiwanese boy, and have a bunch of kids.

At seventeen, Mei has played along for her entire life. It seemed like a good plan. Especially after her older brother was disowned. The last thing she wanted to do was let down her parents.

But as her first semester of pre-med drags on, it becomes clearer and clearer that she is not cut out for med school. She can’t even go into a public bathroom without the urge to spray everything in Lysol, or shake hands with someone without whipping out the hand sanitizer immediately afterward.

The fact that her crush is definitely not Taiwanese is just the cherry on top of a Mei-shaped sundae.

Torn between her loyalty to her family and her own desires, Mei must come to terms with not only her own feelings, but a pile of secrets, misinformation, and tradition her family has been sitting on for years.

For those of you not familiar, “tricky families” is a label used by psychologists to label families that work well on paper and look great from the outside, but cover loads of emotional and psychological abuse and neglect. Having been raised in a “tricky family,” I know the feeling all to well, though my situation was quite different. I highly recommend this book for anyone who comes from a similar background, or anyone who is looking for an emotional Asian-American led story, or a book focusing on the transition to college life.