Aaaaaaahhh!!! I'm so excited to be on the blog tour for Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen. I've got a review for you here today, and you can click here for more stops on the blog tour. Just don't forget to enter the fabulous giveaway down below as well!
The Book and its Author
When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to studyMandarin 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 Virginia to 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.
Thank you to the Fantastic Flying Book Club and Inkyard Press for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review!
“Our cousins have done this program,” Sophie whispers. “Best kept secret. Zero supervision.”
And just like that, Ever Wong’s summer takes an unexpected turn. Gone is Chien Tan, the strict educational program in Taiwan that Ever was expecting. In its place, she finds Loveboat: a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, snake-blood sake flows abundantly, and the nightlife runs nonstop.
But not every student is quite what they seem:
Ever is working toward becoming a doctor but nurses a secret passion for dance.
Rick Woo is the Yale-bound child prodigy bane of Ever’s existence whose perfection hides a secret.
Boy-crazy, fashion-obsessed Sophie Ha turns out to have more to her than meets the eye.
And under sexy Xavier Yeh’s shell is buried a shameful truth he’ll never admit.
When these students’ lives collide, it’s guaranteed to be a summer Ever will never forget.
Loveboat, Taipei is an absolutely unforgettable novel about family, friends, and how to grow up without losing touch with yourself. Everything was absolutely perfect, and I can’t wait for everyone to read this book.
Ever, our main character, was a fantastic narrator. She’s full of spirit and newfound independence (which comes back to bite her in some ways, but bolsters her in others), and she’s ready to explore Taipei and make the most of her summer program, despite wanting to enjoy her last summer back home. She is resilient, always helping her friends, and so full of forgiveness it astounds me.
Family is a big part of Ever’s life: she’s got overbearing parents who want her to go to medical school despite her queasiness around blood and dreams of being a dancer, and she plans to fulfill their expectations and make them proud. To do what her dad couldn’t and become a doctor in the United States. In talking about Ever’s family, Loveboat, Taipei explored life in an immigrant family—the unfamiliarity with a faraway homeland and culture, but still not being considered fully American and regaining any status held from one’s past. The novel hits these notes perfectly in a stirring portrait of Ever, a daughter trapped under her parents expectations.
I also loved Ever’s friendships at Chien Tan. Sophie, Rick, Xavier, and the army of side characters were each well developed and full characters of their own right. Seeing this kind of group cast in a contemporary novel is fun to read, because each character has a chance to come into their own as the main character does. Loveboat, Taipei is a novel about defying expectations and growth, which comes across clearly in each of their journeys, not only Ever’s.
The romances were so adorable as well! I didn’t love the love triangle at first, but the resolution was satisfying and I enjoyed the ending (even if the epilogue felt trite). Rick was considerate and thoughtful, always taking care of Ever. Xavier had surprising depth, which was nice—it’s always neat to see a “playboy” character not be reduced to a stereotype. Wen gave each of them importance and backstory which added to the plot outside of their relationships with Ever.
The setting in Taipei was new to me, and the descriptions and cultural outings (both program sanctioned and, *ahem*, extracurricular) helped me learn more about the city and culture. I think it’s neat that Loveboat is based on a real cultural immersion program. It gave the novel a distinct real-world connection.
Wen writes with mastery, weaving a variety of themes and creating an intricate story that will tug at the heartstrings of any reader, no matter what genre you usually prefer. 5/5 stars, and one of my favorite reads of 2019. Definitely recommend!
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.