Review | Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

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?

Loveboat, Taipei was described to me as “Crazy Rich Asians, but a YA version.” I loved the Crazy Rich Asians series and flew through it in a matter of days, but I just couldn’t get into Loveboat, Taipei the same way.

I really appreciated the main messages of Loveboat, Taipei. It examines the expectations that are put on first-generation Americans, the struggle between following your passions and following your parents’ expectations, and finding your place in the world. These are all such important topics, but I felt that they were explored solely at a surface level; there were just too many pieces to touch upon each effectively.

Arguably the main focus of Loveboat, Taipei was the romance. I didn’t love the love triangle (square?) from the outset, and once the cheating was messily justified (which did not do well in terms of destigmatizing depression!) I just couldn’t get onboard with it. Even the short attempt at “fake dating” couldn’t salvage my positive feelings toward this relationship.

The characters, themselves, were pretty two-dimensional, with the exception of Ever. I enjoyed seeing Ever grow up and become less naive, while making mistakes in the process and dealing with the aftermath. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters were not fleshed out well and, frankly, forgettable.

Overall, I can appreciate what Loveboat, Taipei was trying to do with all of the important issues that it brought up. Unfortunately, those were all rushed through to focus on a relationship that I just didn’t care about.

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