Before I begin, I want to thank Read by Tiffany and her #SubtleAsianBookClub for recommending this book. They read it as their February pick, but I was a little late to the party. Honestly, I don’t know that I would’ve picked it up otherwise. Not that the premise doesn’t sound interesting, I just haven’t been in a contemporary mood lately. But this one was worth it! 🙂
“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.
So, I don’t know if it matters but I’m going to preface this with the fact that I am not, in any respect, Asian. 99% of my genes hail from Europe and the Native Americas. Furthermore, my 1 Asian friend got military orders to South Korea. 😕 However, I have a great love and respect for our Eastern neighbors. The complex histories and different social dynamics are fascinating! I love learning about cultures vastly different than mine and this felt a little like auditing a class. I imagine not all inclusive or exactly like every Asian family, but it opened my eyes in some ways. Knowledge is the first step to understanding and I’m eager to learn more.
Now that I think about it, growing up in the South and then moving to the Midwest, I never had many Asian kids in my school. I don’t think it was until I moved to Washington, D.C. that I really noticed them in abundance. Realizing this and reading about how Ever was so cognizant of being a minority puts a whole new lens on my experience growing up White. I never thought about how few Asian kids were in my school but of them, it was a common stereotype that they were super smart. It broke my heart to see how that bothered Ever and now I want to go back and apologize to those students. I’m currently back in the Midwest (Ohio for the moment) and it doesn’t appear much had changed. They are still a minority here.
(Btw, I hate the word “them” because I feel like that makes Asian people sound like an “Other” when they’re most definitely NOT! However, I’m not sure how else to word that. Please forgive me and if you have a better way, please share it in the comments!)
But I’m sure you don’t really care about all that so I’ll get on with my review…..
I want to start with how I hate the description on Goodreads! It lacks… Well… Everything!!! Ever Wong has just graduated high school when her summer plans to dance with her best friend are up-ended. She learns her parents have booked her a spot at Chien Tan in Taiwan. It’s a summer program where many Asian kids are expected to get in touch with their heritage. The poor thing, who doesn’t speak a lick of Mandarin, is shoved on a plane and shipped halfway across the globe to a country that hardly speaks American. To say it didn’t start well for Ever is an understatement.
Then, fortune both smiles and frowns on her when she has to share a bus ride from the Taiwanese airport to Chien Tan with “Boy Wonder”, Rick Woo, and his cousin, Sophie Ha. Rick Woo has been the yardstick that Ever’s parents use to measure her against. He’s smart, athletic, always pushing himself to be greater and better. Armed with a predetermined idea that he’s a snob, he only solidifies it with his brusk and rude attitude toward Ever. Sophie, however, is warm and friendly and immediately takes Ever under her wing; deciding that they should be the best of friends the whole time there.
Ever, for her part, hates Chien Tan from the start and is trying to accept the future her parents have planned for her. She wants to dance. She feels as if she’s been born to do it and even gets accepted into a prestigious college dance program. However, her parents have decided that medical school is where her future lies. They want her to be the American doctor her father didn’t get to be when they immigrated. The fact that she can’t stand the sight of blood doesn’t deter them either. They’ve mapped out everything. Right down to what elective she’s going to take at Chien Tan. All she’s expected to do is be excellent at all of it.
So what’s a girl to do? If they’re going to make her come to Taiwan, she’s going to break every last Wong rule they set. Straight As, Dress like a Nun, Curfew of Ten, No Drinking, No Wasting Money, No Dancing with Boys, No Kissing Boys, No Boyfriend. They’re all going down. Her summer of rebellion before accepting the mantle her parents are shoving on her. Her new friend, Sophie, is only too willing to help too.
And that is where the fun and the story really begins in Loveboat, Taipei!
I really enjoyed this book. A lot more than I expected to in the beginning because it was a slow start. Ever didn’t really stand up for herself and I suppose it’s the American in me but that sort of bothered me. She just let her parents and everyone railroad her into stuff that she didn’t really want to do. At times, Sophie and others at Chien Tan took advantage of that part of her too. It wasn’t until the end, when it all imploded, that Ever finally decided to take the reins of her own life.
Of course, what would any summer of rebellion be without a little romance! Enter our two main guys – Rick Woo and Xavier Yeh.
Rick, as mentioned above, is the epitome of a perfect Asian son. Great grades, amazing athlete, handsome, wonderful future planned, gorgeous and rich girlfriend waiting back home. But the more time Ever spends in his proximity, she sees that some of it is a perfectly crafted facade. He’s got his own secrets that weigh heavily on him. But it’s the similarities that cause Ever to rethink how she feels about “Boy Wonder”. Could this big brother act he decides to play around her be all there is to it? Why is she drawn to the one guy she’s hated since she first read about him in World Journal?
Xavier Yeh is the resident bad boy. Heir to a real estate empire, his only goal for the summer is to rack up notches on his bedpost. He’s off to great start when he’s caught having sex on the very first day at Chien Tan. But even though Ever’s not willing to be his next conquest, there’s something that sizzles between them from the first time they meet. Like Rick, he’s also not all that he seems. After witnessing an argument between Xavier and his Dad, and learning that he too is nursing a passion his parent’s will never accept, Ever can’t help but feel for him. But how much of this attraction is real?
And let’s not forget Sophie! Super smart. A whirlwind and a sweetheart with a devilish side. Pushed by her family to not be “too much” and find a man to marry, she’s set her sights on Xavier. In this case, three is definitely a crowd! Can Sophie and Ever’s budding friendship weather the calamity that surely ensues?
I don’t want to give anymore away because it’ll ruin the whole end of the book. The last half had me like 😮 🤨 🙄 😠 😱 😬 😏 🤗 😍 😎 😁!
IF I had to say something negative about this book, there was a moment when one of the characters had been hit and threatened by their romantic partner. The punishment was expulsion from the program but I think jail time would’ve been more appropriate. However, since we only see the consequences from Ever’s vantage, there might have been more that happened behind the scenes. There was another moment too that I feel was rushed for the sake of length but talking about it would give away too much too. You’ll just have to go pick it up and read it yourself!
Which brings me to trigger warnings… You’ll read about having sex (not explicit details and remember, they’re all high school graduates), drinking, depression, abuse (physical and emotional), and attempted suicide.
I’m giving this one 4 stars on my Goodreads page because even though I loved it, I didn’t LOVE it. Know what I mean? Mostly for the things I can’t talk about but mentioned above. 😘
And because my internet was down a few days and I got bored, I created my own casting for if they made this into a movie. LOL! 😆
Lastly, Chien Tan is a real place! Check it out here: http://chientan.cyh.org The pictures really helped me get a visual while reading this book.