Taiwan isn’t written about a lot in young adult fiction, but is a place and culture that I’d love to learn more about. As a part of China Taiwan is and isn’t Chinese. It has a melting pot feel that nicely bridges Chinese and American cultures. Loveboat, Taipei gives us a glimpse into what it means to be an Asian American teenager getting back to their Taiwanese roots.
Did Loveboat, Taipei get too crazy for this Fangirl to handle?
I’ve got to start with the fact Loveboat, Taipei is more new adult than young adult. It (should) change what you expect from the story and these expectations will effect whether you enjoy Ever Wong’s journey. My own expectations were leaning toward experiences in Taipei and less girl gone wild. Not that the night life and party scene isn’t part of Taipei culture but I was looking for more root finding and less rebellion. However, if you want a story about a repressed Asian teen figuring out how to rebel one wild summer with fellow Taiwanese teens… then you’ve got to read Loveboat, Taipei.
We’ve got friendship… on dance party love shots.
Ever isn’t new to friendship. She has a stellar bff back home. Unfortunately her parents want her to experience what it means to be Taiwanese. And that means making new friends while on the Loveboat. Sophie was like a first college roommate. You click but you kind of have too because you’ll be miserable if you don’t. She doesn’t really have your best interests at heart so much as she needs a great wingman. It’s a challenging relationship and was well explored here.
Sophie isn’t the only friend Ever makes, just one of the most influential and unique. I also loved the boy group who worked on proving Asian American stereotypes false. There are also the other girls who come together in a fun way with Ever. You get a real college feeling setting because of the cross section of friendships while not being set in college.
Plus a drunk and confused friends to lovers romantic love triangle.
Friendship with guys always has the potential to go romantic. Especially on this trip as the Loveboat has a couple making reputation. I’ll be upfront about the love triangle. It actually makes a lot of sense that a love triangle exists and that they both start out strong on the friendship front. With this college feel to the story, with a bunch of strangers coming together, there are bound to be first meeting attractions, rumored hotties and already taken boyfriends.
Both men were quite well developed and felt very different to me. I personally leaned toward one over the other. I really loved his back story and the connection he felt toward Ever. But I also understood Ever’s attraction to the guy she chose. There is a deep seated bond there that never went away. I was a little disappointed in how Ever used and abused the rival love interest, but I also understand that is part of growing up and making foolish mistakes.
Wrapped up in a modern look at Taiwanese youth culture.
The Loveboat is meant to be a school like setting where Taiwanese heritage teens can get a shot of culture. They learn the language, both writing and speaking. As well as dancing, calligraphy, sparring and a handful of other cultural hobbies. This is what the parents want for the teens they send here. And it’s all topped off with a trip that gives us a sense of historic Taipei.
Then we have the things the teens love about the Loveboat, these are the real reasons they agree to go. I’m talking late night runs to night clubs. Hookups with other Taiwanese heritage teens. And bargain shopping in the night markets. We get a cross section experience of what it means to be a Taiwanese teen.
Loveboat, Taipei is a strong entry in the new adult genre.
When I started Loveboat, Taipei it felt very young adult and I was confused where this story was going. We meet her tiger mom, a best friend who kept her sane and a crush Ever wasn’t able to act on. Blessedly by 10% we meet Sophie, a pivotal character for Ever and have already arrived in Taipei. That setup was so tight and was a great jumping off point. We needed to understand the life Ever Wong has been living in high school so we could sympathize with her need to rebel. From this point we jump into a new adult pre-college environment.
And Ever gives us a wild, confused journey of awakening.
Ever was certainly repressed growing up. Not that her parents didn’t love her, but they constricted her choices. One of the best things about Loveboat, Taipei is that we get to see Ever learn how to make choices for herself. Most teens first experience this in college. I appreciated how Ever needed to learn to challenge her parents before college and Taipei made the perfect opportunity. With their rules as her starting line. I didn’t always agree with her choices but I liked that she grew from the consequences.
“This novel is a romp—a story of repressed teens gone wild, and of discovering one’s identity in all its facets. Though every Loveboat student shares a cultural heritage, they are individuals: some funny, some quiet, some timid, some outrageous. They are all diverse, all talented, and all flawed in their own ways.”Abigail Hing Wen, author’s note in Loveboat, Taipei
Loveboat, Taipei gave us real Asian American teens with the shared cultural heritage of Taiwan. Ever makes mistakes, runs afoul of new friends and comes into her own. Her future will be bright as long as she remembers to stay true to herself. This is a teen contemporary at its best!