I love exchanges, especially ones where my travel expenses are mostly covered, so I would have killed to have the opportunity that was forced upon Everett aka “Ever” by her parents. Fortunately with Loveboat, Taipei I felt I was right by Ever’s side experiencing her culture and “freedom” from her parents for the first time.
Those who are children of immigrant parents, myself included will find that they are able to relate to at least part of Ever’s story and the pressure and guilt trips she faces from her parents, especially her mother. While my brother and I were never pressured by my parents to become doctors, we both were “encouraged” to pick “safe” majors and careers. This may be why I couldn’t help be root for Ever, as it was clear that she was incredibly passionate about dance and that it was obvious that this was what she was meant to do.
In addition to Ever, we are also introduced to Rick and Sophie who are cousins as well as Xavier, who at first glance appears to be your typical wealthy, playboy. In Abigail Hing Wen’s hands these teens become more than your ordinary character archetypes. For instance Xavier’s life isn’t perfect and he actually hides a sensitive and caring side while Sophie, who befriends Ever has her own issues and isn’t just a fun, ditzy, cheerleader who only exists to support Ever. Both Xavier and Sophie have their own problems and agendas and they’re not immune to reacting and taking action in the heat of the moment. The same can be said for Rick who is seen as the “golden boy”, while it’s true that compared to the others, he has a charmed life it’s not without its own stresses that mostly come from his family’s disapproval of his girlfriend as well as her dependence on him.
As with any excellent contemporary YA novel, there is both drama and romance in Loveboat, Taipei. I knew from the start who I wanted to end up together and since I was satisfied with the romance so I did not mind the love triangle. That being said, I do believe that since Loveboat, Taipei tried to tackle countless serious topics at once including parental pressure and guilt, mental illness, harassment, leaking of nude images, parental abuse and abandonment they often weren’t addressed properly due to lack of space and time in the book. Furthermore, with the drama I felt like some characters got off too easily for example, Sophie who I felt was quickly forgiven for her actions. While I was sympathetic to her character I did not fully buy into her “redemption” and wished she faced more consequences.
Loveboat, Taipei actually lived up to my expectations. The story was perfectly paced and the writing flow well. It also made me tear up a few times while warming my heart at other times. Sure there was plenty of drama, as expected when you have a large group of young people who are free from their usual family obligation and responsibilities, I personally found that the amount of drama was just enough to keep readers invested in the characters and the story.
Taiwan was never high on my travel bucket list, however having lived vicariously through Ever’s adventures I may be reconsidering it as a travel destination. I can’t wait for the next book and I am crossing my fingers that it will focus more on Sophie or Xavier or even both of them!!
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.