Book Review: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Loveboat, Taipei
by Abigail Hing Wen
Rating: ★★★★★

Published by Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 6th of January, 2020
Australian RRP: $17.99

“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.”

Loveboat, Taipei is without a doubt my favourite read of the year so far. I’ve already read a few great books in 2020 but this is the first one I really couldn’t part with and I had to keep reading it in every spare moment. Ever is a first-generation Chinese-American and her parents gave up everything, including her father’s career to be a doctor, to bring her a better life full of opportunity in America. Counting their pennies, working odd jobs and being in a new environment for their children weighs heavy on Ever and the pressure to follow their dreams outweighs her passion for her own. I loved the friendships in this book, that were flawed and had to overcome struggles and the romance in the book that really kept me torn between who was right for her. The family values and lessons throughout the book were also important and everything came together to make a compelling read that I was totally obsessed with.

I love the way Ever is Chinese-American but not able to really speak or understand her native language and as her parents struggle with English sometimes, not being their native language. She also follows some customs and feels included but also out of place in other ways too, especially at her school. I think I like it so much because I can really relate to her being Vietnamese-Australian and not being able to speak or understand Vietnamese. It doesn’t bother me, but people have always brought it up to me, or sort of making me feel like I’m different and it has started discussions with my friends that are full Chinese, Taiwanese or Vietnamese on that divide some Asians feel or experience as everyone is so diverse with their background and their upbringing.

It’s also just a really enjoyable and fun book like a fantastic contemporary that gets your heart jumping and puts a smile on your face. This is a great book for teenagers and young adults because Ever really struggles with what she wants versus what she should do or is being pressured into doing. There are also some darker notes to it with the fact that her mother has always made her feel quite ashamed of her body and to hide it for modesty which led Ever to be closed off and feel like she always needs to hide. However, Ever was able to overcome this throughout the book and she matured so wonderfully on her own after her experiences at Loveboat and meeting all her new friends and love interests. I loved the love triangle as well because both guys she was attracted to were such great characters after they opened up to her and I was really torn on who I wanted her to be with more. I think if the book goes on to a series that still focuses on her they may even be a chance for the other guy and I’m open to that!

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