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Hi everybody! Today I’m combining two reviews into one post because both books were amazing, fun and diverse YA contemporaries, written by two amazing diverse debut authors. And well.. I wanted to gush about them both at the same time… So here we go!
My rating in stars: 4,5 stars
My rating in words: Loved it!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):
Let’s Talk About Love is a book that made me Smile with a capital S. Yes, it’s even made its’ way onto my list of feel-good books I could re-read forever and ever. It’s great and awesome and should definitely have a place on your TBR if it hasn’t already. Here’s why I loved it:
1. ACE REP. BIROMANTIC ACE REP.
I think we have a severe lack of aro/ace representation in YA books and as such, I love it when I come across a book that actually has the rep and (in my personal opinion) does it right. Alice is biromantic asexual and the story opens up right when her girlfriend is breaking up with her because she thinks that Alice not wanting to have sex with her means she can’t love her as much. While she is hurting and coming to terms with it, she meets Takumi, her hot new library colleague who is giving her a lot of butterflies she wasn’t expecting. I especially loved this representation because it’s romantic ace rep. Mostly when we do actually get ace rep, it’s aro ace (which is great and we also need more off), but there is a whole spectrum so it was nice to see that spectrum explored a bit further and see romantic ace rep represented too. Plus, I just felt like it was realistically done. Alice’s feelings, doubts and insecurities felt soo real and relatable.
2. TAKUMI AND FRIENDS-TO-ROMANCE
Okay, Takumi is definitely a new entry into the list of fictional boyfriends. I adored him. He was the perfect match for Alice and I loved their interactions. But I especially loved how their relationship developed. Despite the fact that Alice instantly thought Takumi was hot and that he made her retire her Cutie-meter™ (yes, she has a cutie-meter™), there was no insta-love. Instead, these two forged a friendship that was so deep and emotional and made me cry because it was so beautiful. And THEN… romantic feelings happen. Excuse me while I swoon so hard I am just a puddle on the ground.
3. HUMOR AND POP CULTURE REFERENCES
I think I’d love to have Alice as a friend. Her kind of humor speaks to me (note: it mostly comes through in the story with lots of parentheses which may take a bit of getting used to) and she is such a passionate TV junkie so I can already imagine the binge-sessions and debates about our favorite shows. I mean, she has a cat named Glory (short for Glorificus), named after the Buffy the Vampire Slayer villain and has a crush on Dean Winchester. We may be soulmates.
Overall, I just highly enjoyed this story and definitely want to re-read it soon. Highly recommend!
“But you know! You get it. I’m not trying to trivialize anyone else and what they have to do, but if I go to my parents and say I’m a lesbian, they would know what I meant. If I went to my siblings and said I’m bisexual, they would know what I meant. If I tell anyone I’m asexual, they’re going to look at me like there’s something wrong. They’re going to tell me to go to a doctor. They’re going to tell me I’m too young to know what I want or I’m still developing. Or they’ll tell me how important sex is to finding a good man. Or they’ll think they can fix me, that I’m lying because I don’t want to sleep with them. It’s hard enough trying to explain that word, so how in the hell am I going to explain I’m biromantic asexual? They’re really going to think I’m making this shit up.”
“If knowing you’re asexual makes someone see you differently, then they don’t deserve to be in your life.”
“”You’re worried whomever you choose to tall won’t believe you. That’s important to you?” “Of course it is. How would you feel if you exposed your identity and the world pointed, laughed, and called you a liar to your face? Would you ever want to do that again? How am I supposed to have any kind of romantic relationship with someone of I feel like I can’t tell them the truth?””
My rating in stars: 4 stars
My rating in words: Really liked it
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):
American Panda is a cute and funny, but also a tough and real look into the struggles Mei, an Asian-American teenager with super traditional parents with strict expectations. It’s an #Ownvoices novel that’s definitely worth the read!
Why I liked it:
1. MAJOR FAMILY FOCUS
Family plays a major part in this story as they are also a huge part of Mei’s life and ultimately, her biggest concern. She suffers a lot under her parents’ and family’s strict expectations and is trying to figure out who she is and what she wants. This story is basically Mei going on her journey to figure that out. As much as I loved getting to know Mei, I also highly appreciated getting this look into her family and the Chinese culture, traditions and beliefs.
2. A HUMOROUS TOUCH
Mei has a dry wit that makes her an excellent storyteller as I really loved her take on things. I love that despite the pretty tough subjects that are breached, the humor still shines through. Both in Mei’s voice, but also in her mothers’ hilarious voicemails that were present throughout the entire story.
Mei is a dancer. She loves and breathes dance and dreams of opening her own dance studio someday (a big no-no in her family, naturally). I was not expecting dance to even be a part of this story, so I was pleasantly surprised when it did play a recurring role. It’s definitely something that drew me to the story.
What I liked less:
1. THE ROMANCE lacked something
Ok, really, this story is about Mei and her family first and romance second. But I still want my romance to draw me in and never let me go. And though I did like the character of Darren Takahashi, he didn’t feel all that memorable to me. Their romance was a bit insta-lovey as well and overall, I just didn’t feel invested in their relationship at all. It was the only nitpick I had to an otherwise really fun and important read!
“And right now I had no idea where I ended and my parents began.”
“And for the record, I’m also not related to every other Chu out there.”
She sipped her water as we laughed. I thought of how in high school, everyone had assumed Ping Lu was my cousin, but no one assumed Ally Jones and Mike Jones were related.”