Loveboat, Taipei is marketed for “fans of Crazy Rich Asians or Jane Austen Comedy of Manners, with a hint of La La Land.”
Eighteen-year old Ever Wong wants to dance. After being taken off the waitlist at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Ever finally thinks this is her shot. Too bad her ultra-strict parents already have another plan in store for her: attend Northwestern University and become a doctor (never mind that Ever has an intense fear of blood). When her parents find her acceptance letter to Tisch, they ship Ever off to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer. While there, Ever finds herself thrown into a world full over-achieving kids— those exactly like her parents always hoped she would be. She meets Rick Woo, her childhood nemesis, and his enigmatic cousin Sophie, who shows Ever that life outside of Ohio is full of freedom and endless possibility.
Ever’s parents think she is going away on a wholesome cultural experience before college. Little do they know that the program is actually dubbed the “Loveboat,” where teens run free with little supervision to party and hook up. Ever sets out to break all of the Wong Family Rules, starting with sneaking out. With her new friends in tow, Ever discovers what its like to be truly free for the first time…but at what cost?
Loveboat, Taipei surprised us— and in the best way possible! When we first read the description, we were drawn in by the Crazy Rich Asians marketing line. Little did we know that we would be getting so much more! The author does such a great job of showing the reader what it is like to grow up as an Asian American. The book also challenges Asian stereotypes and racism, and sheds light on the Taiwanese culture. We really appreciated these touches, as they added to the depth of the book.
Ever was a well-developed character. She starts off as a straight-laced American teenager who is afraid to break out of her shell. As the book progresses, we slowly start to see Ever come into her own. She forms new friendships, takes risks, and learns more about her culture. The reader truly sees her blossom, and by the end of the book you see an entirely new Ever.
Now, lets talk about the love triangle (yes, we know— the dreaded love triangle!). Most YA readers either love or hate the love triangle bit. We do not usually have a problem with them if they are done correctly. This love triangle was most definitely done correctly! The first love interest is Rick, the goody-too-shoes nemesis from Ever’s childhood. The other leading man in this triangle is Xavier, the brooding bad-boy type. Now, we love a bad-boy, don’t get us wrong. But, we really did like both of these men, and we saw how both challenged Ever in important ways. We won’t spoil the ending, but we liked the way this storyline ended and we hope (fingers crossed!) that the other guy gets his own love story in book 2.
We were highly entertained by the teen’s shenanigans. From the clubbing scenes to drinking snake-blood sake, there was never a dull moment.
If you’re looking for a fun read that touches on important themes, then definitely consider picking this one up! We thoroughly enjoyed it, and we can’t wait to see what the author has in store for us with book 2.