Loveboat, Taipei (#1) by Abigail Hing Wen
Published: January 7th 2020 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
Rating: ★★★★ (4)
Genre: Young Adult // Contemporary, Coming-Of-Age
Quick Thoughts: A whip-smart story about following your heart, breaking the rules and finding yourself along the way.
About The Book: 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?
Like most people, I rushed to buy Loveboat, Taipei when it was released, but it got swept down the line in my TBR and eventually got lost (quite literally, growing legs and disappearing in my bedroom) along the way. After I found it again, I was offered the chance to read the sequel, Loveboat Reunion, so I thought that there was no time like the present to finally discover this beauty!
Eighteen year old Ever, our main character, is sent from her home in Ohio, USA to Taiwan for the summer. The intention her parents want is for her to study mandarin, but unfortunately, Ever’s summer isn’t going to be as simple as initially thought. The program is actually quite infamous for being called Loveboat, a teen-filled place where there are more rule-breakers than over-achievers. She’s introduced to a set of clever kids, prodigies, and handsome strangers, suddenly free to make her own choices and potentially break the rules.
The novel actually progressed a lot differently than I had initially expected. Ever, who starts as cautious and level-headed, turns rebellious with ease as she meets friends and goes through challenges of dares, romances and night-long parties. She goes through a ton of character development through it though, and so do the secondary characters, especially Sophie. For me, the character-building was the highlight of the novel – that is where Abigail’s writing truly shines.
Overall, Loveboat, Taipei was a whip-smart story about following your heart, breaking the rules and finding yourself along the way. It was a true coming-of-age type of read, perfect for those that love High School dramas as well. I thought that the topics of racism, sexism and sexual assault were dealt with in a careful and thought-provoking way that I highly applaud. It had amazing representation of Asian-American culture. The way that Taipei was described (even though I’ve never been out of the UK and can’t say for myself how realistic it is) painted such a vibrant, beautiful picture through words and I am really excited to read the second novel to witness more of this gorgeous setting. Four stars!
Abigail Hing Wen is the New York Times bestselling author of Loveboat, Taipei, which is being adapted for film by the producers of Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before. She holds a BA from Harvard, a JD from Columbia Law School, and an MFA from the Vermont School of Fine Arts, and, like some of her characters, is obsessed with musicals and dancing. When she’s not writing stories or listening to her favorite scores, she is busy working in artificial intelligence in Silicon Valley, where she lives with her family. You can learn more about her at www.abigailhingwen.com. Follow on Instagram/Twitter/TikTok @abigailhingwen