Ever’s pushy parents have already gotten their way by making her apply to medical school, but Ever expects to have one last summer to herself. Then they drop the bomb on her that she’s going on an intensive summer program in Taiwan instead. Even though it’s an escape, she doesn’t speak a lick of the language and she’s halfway across the world from everything she’s ever known. You’re going to struggle at first no matter how happy you are to get away. I know that through first-hand experience. She’s lucky to quickly make friends with her roommate Sophie Ha, though her relationships with Sophie’s cousin Rick and Sophie’s own crush Xavier are a bit complicated. And then there’s the secret admirer leaving beautiful drawings of Ever around for her to find…
I can’t decide who I like best as a love interest for Ever and you can’t MAKE me choose, but the guys have their own charms. If you like your love stories dramatic and with multiple entanglements, Loveboat, Taipei delivers! The classes of Chien Tan get little attention since Chien Tan is more about clubbing in Taipei, the people you’re in the program with, and generally having fun while your family thinks you’re studying hard. Like, of course the classes are there, but based on what Wen has to say in her author’s note, the real Chien Tan seems quite similar to the one she writes.
But it’s not all fun and parties. Ever has her issues with her own parents, Rick struggles with how everyone has decided he’s perfect, Sophie is browbeaten by her family about finding a rich man, and Xavier’s dad is abusive. The lows are as dark as the highs are delightful and you should be prepared for the dating violence that happens on the page. Readers will get just the right mix of rom-com fun and serious dissection of the pressures these kids are under.
WHAT LEFT ME WANTING:
The one thing I can’t get past is what Sophie does to Ever in revenge for getting with Xavier: releasing naked photos of her. It’s bad, but Sophie gets forgiveness with far too much ease. This is something that threatened Ever’s future, turned her into a target for bullying, and made Ever’s parents go ballistic. Sure, Sophie is a complex person and Ever has seen for herself the kind of abuse Sophie has had to live with all her life, but you’ve got to draw a line in the sand somewhere. Revenge porn should be it and yet it’s not.
Still. Not long after I finished the book, I bought my own hardcover of Loveboat, Taipei. Specifically, I got the Barnes & Noble edition that came with extras like scenes from Sophie’s and Xavier’s points of view based on an older version of this book. This international romance is a must-read, especially in a year like 2020. We all need an escape from what a trip this year has been. Why not one into a Taiwanese summer program that runs on romance, drama, and the occasional class?