Hello! I must say, I rarely do book reviews because… I haven’t been reading a lot. I’m actually ashamed to say this because I promised myself to read more this year but I haven’t. One day, I came across AsianBossGirl, and saw Episode 71: NYT Best Seller, Abigail Hing Wen on Spotify. Then I thought to myself, I keep telling myself I need to read self-help books or books to help me with my career. But I really just want to read a YA book right now. Perfect timing. I never thought I’d be able to finish the book in 2 days! I immediately knew I want to write a review about the book halfway through it and why I think you should read Loveboat, Taipei which is written by Abigail Hing Wen.
Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen
Summary: Asian-American Ever Wong’s strict and traditional parents send her to Taipei’s summer camp to learn Mandarin. Turns out the program is has a nickname – Loveboat where the kids are more into clubbing, drinking snake-blood sake. Anything that you can think of that breaks strict Asian parents’ rules. This is the perfect summer for Ever to find herself and also help her new-found friends discover the inner part of themselves.
After reading the summary of Loveboat, Taipei on Goodreads, I know it’s going to have the whole ‘Crazy Rich Asian’ vibes again once the movie is released. I did not read Crazy Rich Asians but I’m just not into the movie ALTHOUGH I’m so proud of an all Asian cast movie. On top of that, we have THREE Malaysian casts in it. So so proud. Before we move on to why I think you should read Loveboat, Taipei, just want to give you a heads up that there are spoilers.
Why I Think You Should Read Loveboat, Taipei
Ever’s parents have got strict rules and they’re traditional Asian parents. I can totally relate to that although I still don’t understand why they didn’t allow me to hang out with my friends at the mall without a chaperone when I was 14. Yes, it was pretty embarrassing having my mom tailing me and my friends.
My parents aren’t first-generation Malaysians so Malaysia’s culture is our culture. They didn’t have to give up everything to move to a different country and have cultural differences with me but Asian parents will always be Asian parents. Rules are rules.
Also, in Loveboat, Taipei, Rick’s family puts pressure on him when it comes to his girlfriend/future wife because out of his 22 cousins, he’s the only one who will carry the family name to the next generation. That’s real serious pressure we’re talking about. To be honest, I don’t know if Malaysian Chinese parents are still like that because I don’t see my friends who are the only sons in the family being pressured that way. However, watching Asian dramas growing up, I definitely understand how much pressure that poor guy is going through.
I met a girl in university who was studying music and my eyes nearly popped out and my mouth was opened so wide, my jaw nearly got stuck after hearing it. I’m obviously exaggerating but I was definitely surprised, not in a bad way though. It was just that I’ve never heard of any Malaysian who can convince their parents that that is a good choice.
Back in primary school, whenever our teachers or any adult asks kids what are their ambitions or what would like to become when they grow up, the three predominant answers are
Doctors, Lawyers, and Teachers
Seriously, who came up with instilling only three career pathways for kids in their minds?
Hence, Abigail writing about Ever’s love and passion for dance was something fresh. And not surprising, her parents are against it when she wanted to take her love for it one step further as a career. I don’t want to spoil more but the book about kids off to summer camp and getting to discover their creativity within them is something I wish I had the chance to do when I was 20.
Language and Dialect
The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese and they do still use Hokkien (a dialect) in their conversations sometimes. This is also something I’m glad Abigail wrote about in the book. There are more than 200 Chinese dialects and I’m proud that Malaysian Chinese still use different dialects in conversations.
The popular dialects are Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew in Malaysia. What’s beautiful about these dialects alongside Cantonese and Mandarin is that Malaysians can put together a sentence with these different dialects without knowing what dialect it is. Or some popular words that we use can be of a dialect that we do not speak of.
As a Malaysian Chinese, I speak Mandarin and Cantonese. My family, however, is of Hakka descent and every single cousin of mine and even my siblings speak Hakka. For some reason, I don’t know how to speak Hakka but at least I understand the dialect.
In my opinion, knowing an extra language does no harm to yourself. I’m really grateful and glad my parents sent me to learn Mandarin and I actually learned Cantonese by watching a lot of Hong Kong Cantonese dramas. Doing some self-reflection now, I really should start learning another language…
And one of the most important part, my review of the book and why I think you should read Loveboat, Taipei is about
I really admire Ever’s character because she embraces the creative part in her – which is her love for dance. Don’t be surprised that this is like the A Cinderella Story (Hilary Duff version) of “No Dad (and Mom), it’s your dream, not mine”. It’s also heartbreaking yet inspiring to read about the other characters who have a love for something but is afraid to admit it. All because of their parents’ expectations. Throughout the book, we see how these characters accept and pursue their passion.
Also, breaking Asian parents’ rules and be a badass when you’re away. I can relate to this because my parents were strict with me when I was younger. I’d always wonder why do high school kids in American movies get to stay out til late. And getting to drive to school hmm… So I was set on studying abroad for university because I yearn for freedom. Still didn’t get to drive to school though.
To me, the love triangle wasn’t the most interesting – we all know that there will be a love triangle. However, I glanced through the summary on Goodreads so I actually didn’t know who she’ll end up with. Which is so fun because I was so eager to know who will be her ultimate bae! So a tip for you, do what I did – just glance through the summary!
Nobody should feel embarrassed if they’ve got disabilities or have mental health issues. I know it’s easy to say but what’s important is to seek help if you feel like you cannot cope with it. And I love that there the book touches on dyslexia and a little about depression. Not having the support to seek help will affect a person mentally over time and having to hide it is tiring, isn’t it?
In life, there are things that you cannot control and it’s harmful to sit and do nothing about it. So to ensure that our daily lives and functions are not badly affected by it, what we can and should do is to find ways to overcome it.
I’ve never been to Taiwan, although it was a part of my plan to visit in 2020. We all know why my plan failed. This is also the reason why I chose to read this book, in a way I’m getting to explore Taipei and enjoying a good book at the same time. Two birds, one stone.
Ever and her friends get to tour Taipei and the south of Taiwan as part of the program. I imagine myself climbing the steps to the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial and visiting the National Palace Museum. Now I’m wondering if, at Liberty Square, a vast public plaza, there are people performing dances like what Ever and her friends did. Lin An Tai, a former residence of the Lin family in the 1700s must be really beautiful too.
Taiwan is also famous for its night market and fried chicken. We have night markets in Malaysia too but if it’s a famous culture in a different country, it’s won’t be the same. I think. Whether I like it or not, it’s definitely on my must-do tourist list, at least I can say I’ve experienced it. And hot springs, they’re well known too. Oh how I wish I got to visit Taiwan.
Loveboat, Taipei: A Review
This may seem like a light-hearted book but in it, there is a serious theme. And that is culture. Asian or not, I’m sure everyone can relate to Loveboat, Taipei in different ways. Whether it’s about culture, expectations to understand or speak a language of your heritage or your love for creativity. Most importantly, having fun when you’re away from your strict parents and breaking their rules. I’m kidding! (No, I’m actually not). But don’t go too far like what Ever did – won’t spoil this part.
This book is reminding me that it’s not the destination that matters the most – in this case, it’s finishing the program. But it’s the journey that is important – which is what the characters have gone through. Self-discovery, and determination to finish what you started is important and Ever did it. In fact, she also found a way to continue what she loves doing after the program. And she wouldn’t have done it if she didn’t attend the program and realize that she just can’t follow the path her parents had set for her. This also reminds me of what my former manager used to tell me, there are many ways to achieve your goal, if one path doesn’t work, try another. Or maybe you should, just do whatever you want!
So this is my review and why I think you should read Loveboat Taipei! Because the book is awesome!
Tags: books, read