BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen [in Shelf Awareness]

“This novel is a romp,” Abigail Hing Wen promises (and delivers!) about Loveboat, Taipei. The Loveboat, she explains in her opening note to readers, is the popular name for Chien Tan, a real-life Taiwanese summer language program aimed at diasporic teens, with a reputation for having “zero supervision.” As a teenager, Wen experienced her own “notorious” Loveboat summer, sneaking out, clubbing, eating at night markets, romancing … all of which she weaves into her #OwnVoices YA debut.

Eighteen-year-old Ever Wong dreams of dancing but is resigned to going to Northwestern and becoming the doctor her Chinese immigrant parents expect her to be. When she’s taken off the NYU Tisch waitlist, she’s momentarily hopeful, until her mother throws away her acceptance letter. Despite the senior summer plans Ever has already made, she’s exiled to Chien Tan, though her parents insist “this isn’t a punishment.” Her reluctance is assuaged by the near instant friendships she forms: her roommate, Sophie, quickly becomes her new BFF; Sophie’s prodigy cousin Rick turns out to be rather sweet; and wealthy bad-boy Xavier’s scandalous behavior proves catching. Eight weeks pass quickly – but that’s just enough time to break all the “Wong Family Rules.” Ever’s freedom odyssey features discos and bars, glam shots and nude pics, even first sex and first love (not necessarily in that order).

While Loveboat shenanigans keep pages turning, Wen also skillfully deals with crucial matters of identity, parental sacrifice, filial guilt and internalized racism. One particularly seamless example is Ever’s rejection of the all-too-common in Asian communities epicanthoplasty, and her pride in her own single eyelids. (That the book has a cover featuring Asian eyes with double eyelids feels like an unfortunate misstep.) With so much to learn, Wen’s rollicking journey awaits with an energetic “welcome aboard.”

Discover: After a life of doing everything right, 18-year-old Ever decides she’s going to break all the “Wong Family Rules” during the summer language-immersion program she’s sent to in Loveboat, Taipei.

Review: “Children & Young Adult,” Shelf Awareness, January 17, 2020

Readers: Young Adult

Published: 2020


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