YA Review: Loveboat, Taipei

Title: Loveboat, Taipei
Author: Abigail Hing Wen

YA Review: Loveboat, Taipei

I loved this book! YA romance is not my usual go-to genre, but occasionally a book catches my eye and I discover something wonderful.

Ever Wong is a Chinese-American high-school student, following her parents’ wishes and applying to medical schools when she’d rather train as a dancer. But her parents don’t see dance as a career, and her family has sacrificed their home and culture to give her an American childhood and a future in the US. It is Ever’s search for her own path, and her determination to make her own decisions and mistakes, that drew me into her story.

Ever is sent to Taiwan, to take part in a summer-school cultural education programme before she heads to medical school. She’s expecting a rigid timetable of language classes and educational trips around Taipei, but when she arrives she sees a chance to discover who she is when her strict parents are not around to control her. She makes a list of the rules she has to follow at home, and sets about breaking them. There are boys, nightclubs, photo shoots and dance classes, love triangles, new best friends, and betrayal and heartbreak as she figures out how to be an independent adult.

But this isn’t just a story about first love and teenage mistakes. At the core of the book is Ever’s determination to find her purpose, and prove that she can build a career doing what she loves. I adored following her efforts to become a dancer, and fight for the future she wanted for herself.

Loveboat, Taipei is an intelligent, emotional and heartwarming story. The romance element drives the plot, but Ever’s journey of self-discovery and rebellion forms the heart of the novel. The tension mounts as the story progresses, and Ever begins to resign herself to years of medical training and a life she doesn’t want. I didn’t predict the ending, but I was punching the air. This is a life-affirming novel with a highly relatable protagonist, and one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Have you read Loveboat, Taipei? What did you think of the Ever’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Loveboat, Taipei cross-posted to GoodReads.

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YA Review: If You Still Recognise Me

Title: If You Still Recognise Me
Author: Cynthia So
Paperback (Paper Orange Book Box)

If You Still Recognise Me by Cynthia So

This is a lovely, quiet, undramatic LGBTQ+ romance full of friendship, family relationships, and the dangers of coming out to people who might not understand.

Elsie is finishing her A-level exams, and looking forward to a summer of freedom and adventure before university. She has plans to go on holiday with her best friend Ritika, and she’s looking forward to new issues of her favourite comic, Eden Recoiling. She has a secret long-distance crush on Ada, who writes Eden Recoiling fan fiction, but Elsie is in Oxford, and Ada is in New York, so a relationship is probably out of the question.

But Elsie’s plans for the summer are forced to change when her grandmother flies in from Hong Kong to stay, following the death of her grandfather. Her parents expect her to stay at home with their guest during the week, and to find a weekend job before she plans her holiday. Elsie hasn’t come out to her family, and she knows that her grandmother’s traditional attitudes would probably not include acceptance of her sexuality. She hasn’t seen her grandmother for eight years, and as she keeps her company she starts to uncover the prejudices, family secrets, and a clash of cultures that have forced her family apart. When an old friend from Hong Kong arrives back in her life, Elsie finds herself questioning all her relationships – friends, family, and romantic interests.

The book follows Elsie as she spends time getting to know her old friend again, discovering the secrets her family has been hiding, and attempting to solve a puzzle that she hopes will impress Ada. In pursuit of the truth about her family, and the solution to Ada’s mystery, Elsie and her friends meet a series of gay characters at every stage of life, most of whom are refreshingly happy and settled in their identities. While she doesn’t feel comfortable being open about her sexuality at home, these characters provide her with inspiring role models for the next stages of her own life, and help her to make decisions about her relationships.

There’s nothing forced about these encounters, and the positive attitudes provide a wonderful counterbalance to the rejection she fears at home. Elsie is a warm and relatable character – she’s passionate about the Eden Recoiling comic and fandom, and the people she meets who share her enthusiasm. She grumbles about the changes to her plans for the summer, and surprises herself as she spends time with her grandmother and learns more about her. Ritika is a great best friend. She’s excited for Elsie as she discovers more about herself and her relationships, and she’s not afraid to point out when Elsie is wrong. Elsie’s parents are strict but supportive, and I loved the moment when Elsie discovers her mother’s love of manga, and they begin to bond over their shared interest.

If You Still Recognise Me is a gentle coming-of-age novel with an LGBTQ+ protagonist and a positive supporting cast. The author infuses the story with the luxury and hopefulness of a summer of freedom before the characters move away from home and start new lives at university. Reading it is like finding a new friend who loves the things you love, and discovering a new way to see yourself in the world. It’s a perfect summer read.

Have you read If You Still Recognise Me? What did you think of Elsie’s story? Did the ending surprise you? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.