Loveboat, Taipei is a well put together mix of Asian-American representation and young adult themes. It uses tropes from its genre but doesn’t let it be a cliche: a teenage moving far from her parents, finding new friendships, a love triangle and coming of age. A great YA contemporary romance that can effectively tug at the reader’s heartstrings and be swoon-worthy at bits.
➝ Sum it up in points!
✔ Asian-American representation
✔ overseas summer school program
✔ parental pressures, especially of immigrants
✔ first love, first romance
✔ intimacy with consent
✔ hot but emotional guys
✔ making new friendships
✔ passion: dance & art
✔ finding individuality
✔ familial expectations in Asian communities
✔ making the choice between dreams and legacy
➝ Trigger Warnings
– tiger parents
– first-time drinking
– rebellious night-out
– judgment from community
– possible fatality on the road
– leaked nudes
– friend breaking trust
– abusive parent (off page)
– depression & suicidal side character
– unwillingly stuck in a relationship
Loveboat, Taipei creates an expected scenario where a daughter of Asian immigrants in America is scolded for secretly applying to her dream course in dancing—despite being granted admission—and for not pursuing the path of medical studies. As a result of this, the parents decide to send Ever, their daughter, to an overseas summer program in Taiwan where she can better her knowledge of Mandarin and possibly learn the essentials of being a perfect student; and maybe to understand her Asian roots before fulfilling her American dream—her parents’ American Dream.
The best thing about the plot is how relatable it is for every Asian, especially those who are born to immigrants. At the same time, it creates a different spark by creating this idea of placing a recent high-school graduate in a setting where everything is new but everything can also be fun. It gracefully interweaves the easy-to-connect plot line and empathetic themes.
A love triangle that isn’t easy to decide on is exactly what Loveboat, Taipei offers. A golden boy and a mysterious boy, both develop feelings for this rebellious yet grounded girl who can drink snake-blood sake upon being challenged and can dance like there’s nothing more addictive in this world. This triangle paired with the themes of first love, intimacy, teenage sex, finding one’s individuality in a community that asks you to walk the same path, the story is bound to leave your heart skipping.
The story spans over eight weeks and is set against a background of beautiful Taiwan and a very-much-real summer program for Chinese-Americans called Love Boat. Not only does the book guide you through various heritage and cultural gems but it also lights up the pages through the night-life of Taiwan. Through words, Loveboat, Taipei successfully proves to highlight not just a stunning summer school but also shine a limelight on the beautiful city.
The strongest aspect of this story is its representation. A Taiwanese-American main character, Ever Wong, is carving the story of her passion for dance clashing against her parent’s expectations as immigrants; of her newfound freedom versus the values instilled in her by the community she belongs to; of the friendships she discovered and the love she felt. Loveboat, Taipei authentically knits together the Asian identity and the American identity of an Asian-American—and how those two identities can be blended together according to one’s own identity. Ever surely gives a commendable voice to the many Asian-Americans.
With three East-Asian-American characters accompanying Ever through this story, the representation becomes a delight. A perfect poster-boy: good grades, extra-curricular enthusiast, sports champion, well-mannered, handsome; exactly what every Asian parent wishes for. A boy with a bad reputation is brooding, hates rules, loves art, and flaunts a personality that doesn’t belong to him. A girl with simple dreams, brave & fun personality searches for true love. When these three and Ever’s lives fuse together, it’s a young generation of Asians trying to make their own path while also letting their roots lie bare on this path.
The writing is simple with first-person narration and along with crisp pacing that runs through quick scenes across different settings, it develops emotions through every character and subsequently pulls the reader’s emotions in it too. A definite recommendation for those who love an accurate representation and a young romance that is set against themes of distinctiveness.
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour but that, in no way, affects my rating and/or review. Thank you, FFBC tours, Harper Teen, and Abigail Hing Wen! This post may contain affiliate links which means I earn a percentage of your purchase using the link without any extra cost to you. Please consider buying through these affiliate links if you wish to support the blog. Thank you!
Click & enter to win one of 2 copies of Loveboat, Taipei!🎉
US only. Ends January 14, 2020.
Title: Loveboat, Taipei
Author: Nina Varela
Publishing Date: January 7th, 2020
Age Category & Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Romance
For fans of Crazy Rich Asians or Jane Austen Comedy of Manners, with a hintof 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?
Abigail was born in West Virginiato a family of immigrants: Her mother is from the Philippines and her father from Indonesia, and her grandparents emigrated to those countries from Fujian and Shandong provinces in China.
Abigail grew up in Ohio and graduated from Harvard University and Columbia Law School.
She worked in Washington DC for the Senate, as a law clerk for a federal judge. and now in Silicon Valley in venture capital and artificial intelligence. She also earned her Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
In her spare time, she enjoys long walks with her husband and two boys, and hanging out with friends and over 100 family members in the Bay Area. She loves music and dances to it when no one is watching.