Mini Reviews: American Panda & The Big F

Hello friends, happy Friday! I’m back with mini (well, not so mini, sorry) reviews of two of my latest reads.

Today’s theme for our mini reviews is YA books set in college, as well as YA books dealing with parental expectations. I didn’t even plan it out, but it turns out these books have these things in common, so… YAY. Let’s get started!

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

American Panda, Gloria Chao goodreads-badge-add-plus-fad3b68d35050280ea55d50f17c654b5

American Panda is this adorable book everyone has been talking about since the beginning of the year, and I get why. It was funny, adorable, witty yet managed to tackle important issues and shine a light on Chinese American teenagers and the struggles between traditions, family pressures and the main character’s own happiness.

I’m not going to talk about the representation in any way, since I am not fitted to talk about that. Instead, I’m going to talk about how this book made me feel. It warmed my heart, it really did and it had everything I could love in my contemporaries. We have a sweet, determined, confused and relatable main character, trying to figure out what she wants to do and who she wants to be and how to reconcile her own happiness with her parents’ desires. I loved Mei’s voice, she was funny, heartwarming and easy to care for.

I also loved the family dynamics in this story – on the one hand, Mei’s family, rooted in their traditions, on the other hand, Mei, conflicted about everything. We also get Xing, Mei’s big brother, who’s been disowned by his family because they don’t approve of his relationship. Each of their interactions felt authentic, real, conflicted and sometimes were a struggle as Mei tried to reconcile what she wants with what her family wants and slowly realizes that it’s not always possible, without sacrificing herself in the process.

Great family dynamics – and development, too! – as well as an adorable romance that slowly builds up, American Panda had it all to make me smile all the way and… even if the focus really is on the family, I also really appreciated the college setting. In a whole, American Panda is a wonderful that allows us to get a glimpse into Chinese Americans families and, while it’s not and can never be a universal tale, brings a refreshing and diverse new voice into YA books.

“And right now I had no idea where I ended and my parents began.”

My rating : 4 drops !

test rating 4

#ownvoices reviews on American Panda to check out: Tiffany @ Read By TiffanyJenna, Jeann & Aila @ Happy Indulgence ; if you did an #ownvoices review, I’d happily add you here!

The Big F, Maggie Ann Martingoodreads-badge-add-plus-fad3b68d35050280ea55d50f17c654b5

Thank you again to the wonderful Jackie for hosting the giveaway that allowed me to receive and read this book.

This story was a really quick and fun read and yet another one set in college – something I have and will always be craving in young adult books. There is so much to say about college and this period in life and, if you ask me, it definitely fits the young adult books, too. Anyway that’s a whole other debate here.

This book solely focuses on Danielle, trying to find her way through life and her future knowing that she wasn’t accepted into her dream college – well, her parents’ dream college. It deals with what to do whenever whatever you’ve been planning out your whole life, just doesn’t happen the way it’s supposed to. I absolutely loved how Danielle’s character changed and grew in this story, from feeling lost and confused to taking matters into her own hands and really finding out what she wants to do and what makes her truly happy.

I also really enjoyed the family dynamics in this story – even if I would have appreciated a bit more of it, it wasn’t the sole focus of the book and I understand that. Parents, still together. A brother I absolutely loved – as well as his relationship with his big sister.

Something that bothered me a little in this book, was how the characters were developed. I enjoyed seeing Danielle’s brother and his love of acting, I liked seeing Danielle finding her footing in environment, but I maybe would have liked it all to be a bit more, fleshed out. I also found the boy-next-door a little… flat, somehow. which brings me to the romantic relationships part of the story. If I found it a bit predictable (and a bit love-triangle-y, meh), it turns out I didn’t even mind that much, because some characters were just too damn cute and I was rooting for them.

Overall, The Big F was definitely an entertaining read about figuring out what you want to do and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a fun, light and cute read set in college.

My rating : 3 drops!

Did you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them? Do you want to read them?

Do you like books set in college and do you have any other recommendations for me??

Let’s chat in comments! 💬

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Book blogger, travel blogger, writer. 📚 |🌍 | 💞 Writing & Communications Graduate. French. Living on love, wanderlust and ya books.

51 thoughts on “Mini Reviews: American Panda & The Big F

  1. American Panda has been on my radar for a little while now – I’ve heard many good things! It sounds like a cute read, and like you said, it’s always fun to read a YA book set in college. I don’t know why they’re so rare.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really was a cute read! I have no idea why we don’t have more books like that set in college, or maybe I’m not aware of them, but… I want to read more, they’re so interesting and that setting is just so good to explore, too 🙂
      Thank you so much! 🙂


  2. I’m glad you liked American Panda! I’ve been meaning to read the book since I got my eARC of it but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews of it which made me a little worried, but seeing your review makes me think I should re-add it to my TBR list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I really hope you will read it sometime soon – it was a quick and fun read for sure 😀 I hope you will end up enjoying it 🙂
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! 🙂


  3. Omg I just now realized that I forgot to inclue ownvoices reviews linked in my American Panda review ahhhh noooo – you added a couple I was going to add anyway, so thank you for that 🙂 It was really such an adorable book that also shined a light on what Chinese-Americans experience with trying to balance out their identity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review for both of these books Marie. 🙂 I love books that focus on and have well written family dynamics so I’ll definitely be checking these two out at some point. I’d heard of American Panda (haven’t seen that many reviews for it though) but The Big F is one I hadn’t seen before your review. It’s a shame the characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been and that the story was a little predictable but three stars is still a solid rating right?
    Either way I’m glad you enjoyed both these books, and again great reviews. 😀 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you so much, Beth! I really hope you will read both of these and that you will enjoy them 🙂
      It still is, I still really enjoyed The Big F, it was entertaining and fun to read, I wished it had something, more to make it stand out, but it was still good 😀
      Thank you so much! ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I REALLY want to read American Panda since I feel I will relate to Mei so SO much. I can definitely attest to pressure, tradition and happiness since I struggle with this daily. I’m glad you enjoyed, American Panda, Marie!

    On The Big F, I love the title – its very open for interpretation and I think it represents the book well from your review. 😅

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I really hope that you will read it, it was such a lovely book, I hope you will be able to relate to it as well, whenever you can read it! ❤ ❤
      Hahaha it does represent the book well, I love titles like that 😛
      Thank you so much!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have seen some reviews for American Panda lately, and I am really looking forward to reading it now. I’m all for good family dynamics, because we need more of that in YA! I also really liked the sound of the layout for the book and it intrigues me. I haven’t heard much about The Big F around but it sounds like a decent read from your review!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my gosh, I’ve seen American Panda EVERYWHERE! I’m happy it’s living up to the hype! I’m trying to move away from contemporaries since I don’t seem to jive with a majority of those that I read, but I’m still so excited to see how the genre is expanding (#ownvoices, college aged protagonists), because I think it shows a really exciting shift in the book industry! Just because these aren’t for me doesn’t mean they aren’t important to someone else and that’s what matters 🙂 Hopefully it’s a sign of more to come!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree – I am so happy that there is this amazing shift and so many own voices being released, I love it ❤ Let's hope there are more to come, yes!! 😀
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment ❤


  8. Great reviews Marie! I really enjoyed the college setting in American Panda too. And the family all the way. I didn’t think her love with Darren was instalove at all. I read one of the own voices reviews for American Panda and WOW! I probably wouldn’t have read that book if I read her review. I do wonder now if you thought the pacing was all over the place. I didn’t, I actually enjoyed not reading about her boring science classes, but now I’m curious how other readers felt?!

    As for the Big F… I find it really disappointing that the romance was so predictable and meh. That is a big highlight for me with contemporary… Though its so great that you won the book!! YAY Jackie! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Dani! I’m glad you enjoyed the book as well – I was surprised that some readers found the pacing a bit, off, I didn’t personally, but it’s fun to see how different people feel about the same book 🙂
      It was a bit disappointing that it was predictable, but still it was an enjoyable and fun read 🙂
      Thank you so much, Dani!! 🙂


  9. Those were pretty regular sized reviews for both books in my eyes hahaha still, love the format for your reviews. Love hearing your thoughts on books. I am not sure I would pick up either one of those, just because I am very picky when it comes to my contemporaries, but maybe if there is a deal on American Panda, I will keep a lookout.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahahah I get it, I say I’ll write short reviews, but they end up being… well, quite long haha.
      Both books were fun to read, but I understand. There are way too many books to read for us to pick up the books we are not entirely convinced to read 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Gah, I considered getting American Panda earlier when I was at one of our local bookstores, but I had to go with Eliza and Her Monsters instead (partly because I just adore Francesca Zappia–I read Made You Up a few years ago, and partly because I vividly remember your raving review, which TOTALLY made me want to read it x10000 more). I’m not sure if I’ll be able to relate to American Panda all that much. I’m Chinese, but my parents were born here in the Philippines (b/c both sets of grandparents migrated from China), so we don’t really follow a lot of Chinese traditions. BUT WE SHALL SEE. I’m excited to meet Mei (after Eliza). 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ELIZA AND HER MONSTERS!!!! Okay, I can’t really be mad at you there, I loved that book way too much and I can’t wait to hear what you think of it 😀
      I hope that, even if you can’t relate to Mei all that much, you will enjoy her story anyway 😀 Thank you so, so much Aimee 😀


  11. I’ve had my eye on American Panda for quite a while!! I seriously need to take a break from all the depressingly dark, morally gray fantasies I’ve been absorbing lately and splurge on light, heart-warming books ❤ Plus, judging from the reviews I've seen, the representation is done wonderfully and after reading this post I'm even more excited to read it!! Wonderful mini-reviews, Marie! 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OH HANNAH if you need all of the heart-warming and fluffy books, you’ve come to the right person haha, let me give you all the recommendations 😛
      I hope you’ll want to read American Panda soon, it was such an adorable and fun book 😀
      Thank you so much!! ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ahhh I’ll be sure to keep that in mind!! hell week is coming up in school *sobs dramatically* so I’ll need something light and fluffy to take me away from the depressing reality of exams :”)

        and of course, your reviews are seriously always a delight to read! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve read and really liked American Panda (yay, we both gave it 4 stars, talking of the powers of book twins right here), I’m really excited about The Big F. It sounds lovely, sorry you didn’t like the romance 😢 it really sucks whenever it happens.
    Lovely reviews as always ❤❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YAY! We really are book twins – I love it SO much, seriously it’s amazing 😀 ❤
      I hope you'll give The Big F a try sometime, it was still a really fun read 🙂
      Thank you so much ❤ ❤ ❤


  13. I am glad you liked American Panda. I too want to read it but well, prices 😀 I love to read #ownvoices these days as I get to know about many cultures. I don’t think that I have read a book with Chinese MC so this would be a fun read for me. Also family dynamics? That definitely makes a story interesting.
    Th Big F looks like interesting too, though I haven’t heard much about it. I do like books set in college. But I can’t remember any at the moment to recommend you 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope that you will be able to read that one soon, it was really great and I LOVE books where families have a strong presence 🙂
      Thank you so much!! 😀 And no worries, I can’t really be mad, I already have too many books to read anyway haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve wanted to read American Panda ever since I heard about it last year, so I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed it Marie! I agree that there should be more YA books set in college – I personally don’t think there’s that much difference between those in high school and those in college (of course there can be, but it’s not necessary! My college life is definitely YA not NA 😂) and teens reading YA could really use them, whether they’re about to go to college themselves or if it’s still a few years away. Unfortunately the only one I can think of is Fangirl :/ Hopefully there will be more someday!
    Great reviews Marie 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, there is so much to do with college-set YA, I mean, so much to explore, it’s a different setting and different expectations and it would be amazing to read more books like these 😀
      Thank you so much!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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