Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1) by Abigail Hing Wen
My rating: five stars
Genre: YA, romance, contemporary
Goodreads summary: For fans of Crazy Rich Asians or Jane Austen Comedy of Manners, with a hint of La La Land
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?
This book was the January Barnes and Noble YA Book Club pick. Honestly, I pre-ordered it forever ago though, so that was the greatest coincidence ever! I have been interested in this story for a long time and was so happy to have an excuse to read it immediately after getting it.
This time I am going to do the dislikes first because the likes have to do with the dislikes.
Dislikes: I swear, at the beginning of this story I was so frustrated. I was complaining to my boyfriend. I was texting my friend complaining to her. I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. The characters were SO FRUSTRATING! The best friend was terrible, the main character was interested in someone she shouldn’t be, the love interest needed to get his life together, and the second love interest wasn’t even a love interest. Just thinking about it right now is making me upset! Anyway, so the only thing that I disliked were the characters themselves and their interactions with each other, but I disliked it A LOT. I was not sure if I could read the book, but since it was for the book club I pushed on. The characters were driving me insane, but I am glad that I stuck through it because it was worth it, I believe.
Likes: If you read the fact that I rated five stars, you are probably wondering why, since I clearly had a hard time with the beginning half of the book. The reason that I ended up loving it so much was the character development. As the book goes on you learn more about all of the characters and why they are the way they are. Sure, that doesn’t justify the stuff that they did, but it does give a background as to why they are hurting so much and why they are lashing out or not going for what they want. I would actually love to read the book again to see if I have a different perspective on how the characters act now that I know why. Along with the information came growth. I saw so much growth in almost every single character. They weren’t the same people that they were at the beginning of the story which was beautiful to watch. It was so lovely to watch their growth, and though I would have preferred a different ending, I was still awed by it. Besides the character growth, I loved how realistic this book is. I have several friends whose parents act very similar to Ever’s parents. The guilt that they feel that their parents gave up so much for them, and the strictness and suffocation they feel because of this were direct parallels of each other. This story was a heart-wrencher and I loved the fact that this story could make me feel so connected to the main character.
Overall, I gave this story five out of five stars because I could go on and on saying good things about it. It is a book that I would love to re-read several times just to unpack the story and discover things I may have missed the first time. The beginning of the book did almost make me put it down, but the descriptions, the character growth, the explanation of the culture, and much more made me stay. This book gave me insight into a hardship that I can never experience and that made me understand and feel more sympathetic toward people that do go through that. I recommend this book so much, it really opened my eyes and made me feel more compassionate towards people – because who knows what someone could be going through. Let’s try and make the world a little less judgmental.