Midweek Mini Reviews #25

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features a couple of new two very different YA titles!

Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

High school guys can be jerks sometimes. That’s what CeCe in Sonia Hartl’s Have a Little Faith in Me learns when her boyfriend, Ethan, jumps her soon after the two sleep together for the first time. As someone who is not religious I found CeCe’s experience as an “outsider” at a Christian summer camp for teenagers to be interesting. I also appreciate how the story doesn’t waste too much time on CeCe’s original reason for going to the camp which was to try to win back her ex. Instead we get to see her bond with the other girls in her cabin with whom she never thought she’d have anything in common with. I loved the girls of Cabin 8 and seeing how CeCe helps to bring them out of their shell while the girls help CeCe get over her judginess when it comes to others. It was also refreshing to have a YA novel openly call out hypocrites in religion and I liked the way the topic of consent, and how religion deals with sexuality was approached. Finally even though it’s the way the story was set up, I was still rooting for Paul and CeCe because their friendship was heartwarming and the two of them are adorable with the “stories” they tell each other. If you enjoyed Emery Lord’s The Names They Gave Us and/or Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn then this book is for you.

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Gloria Chao has truly come into her own as a writer with her sophomore novel. Our Wayward Fate, not only looks at the what it’s like growing up as a child of immigrants in a place where no one looks like you, but it does so by incorporating elements of the Chinese legend, The Butterfly Lovers in to her story. This mostly works well, although I initially disliked the sections that contained Chao’s twist on the legend as it took time away from Allie’s story which I found more compelling. I connected with many of Allie’s frustrations as I also grew up with a mostly white town. Like Allie, every time there was a Chinese kid my age, I was often paired with them, despite the fact that I’m not even Chinese. That being said, I did like Chase and Allie’s relationship as it was adorable how they bonded over their many similarities. However, I felt that their transition into being a couple was rushed at the start as the pacing was super-fast after Chase’s arrival since everything just starts blowing up socially all at once for Allie. Fortunately their romantic relationship gets more fleshed out with time. I also liked the direction the author took with Allie and Yun and what the two of them together with Chase end up doing in the end. Finally, I appreciated how Allie was able to grow and realized that while many in her small town are racist, she is not guiltless when it comes to having stereotypes about other people either.




Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | American Panda by Gloria Chao

Gloria Chao
Publication date:
February 6th 2018
Simon Pulse
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I’m truly enjoying the rise in diverse YA fiction voices. This is coming from a girl who grew up with little exposure to stories starring Asian characters. I remember getting excited when on the rare occasion a required reading in class was a short story by an Asian writer with Asian characters that I could relate to. American Panda is the latest addition to the own voices, narrative trend which I hope is here to stay.

While I went into American Panda under the false assumption that it would be a light, rom-com similar to Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, so I was a bit caught off guard by the serious nature of the book especially in the beginning. Yes, there are a few moments of adorableness between Mei and her love interest, Darren Takahashi, however this comes later in the novel and is far from being the central focus. Instead, American Panda is about complicated parent-child dynamics, and the struggle to be true to yourself and your passions.

I can definitely relate to Mei’s pressure to not let her parents down while trying to stay true to what makes her happy. My own immigrant parents never pressured me or my siblings to be doctors, however they have made it clear that they want us to have a stable life without the hardships that they faced. And that’s what I loved the most about American Panda, it realistically showcases one example of how traditional Asian families act. Sure, my parents would never even threaten to disown any of us, however they do gossip and compare us to other kids while giving us backhand comments as a way to show that they care. I also found it refreshing how the family issues were not glossed over. By the novel’s conclusion the family conflicts are not all resolved in a neat and tidy way (as is the case in real life), instead progress is gradually being made from both sides. After all, people can’t just change on a whim, it takes time and considerable work in order to reach an understanding.

What’s nice about the rise in own voices trend is we are getting stories, especially geared towards a YA audience that we haven’t gotten before, I do not think I’ve ever read a story similar to American Panda and while I can’t relate to all of Mei’s experiences I know people who have had similar experiences. Furthermore, as a child of Asian immigrants, growing up as a minority among Caucasians who had younger parents with laissez-faire parenting styles, it was difficult for me to explain to others how I did not have the same freedom that was afforded to them. While it was fine for them to rebel and do as they pleased, similar to Mei in the book, growing up I couldn’t just do as I please without the massive guilt trips. Heartbreaking yet heartwarming, lovely, and well written American Panda is a perfect read to inspire and encourage Asian teens by showing them that there isn’t just one path that they must follow in life.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.