In the book Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen, Ever Wong’s strict parents are sending her to Taiwan for a summer program before the start of college/medical school. Only when she arrives, Ever realizes that the “Loveboat” program is less about reclaiming her roots and more about partying all night–at least according to her classmates it is. As Ever breaks more and more rules set out for her by her parents, the future she doesn’t want looms at the end of summer. Will she deny the expectations of med school and follow her dreams of dancing or is the strength of her immigrant parents’ sacrifice too much to shed?

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t expecting to like this book. To me, it sounded like Ever, a rigid rule-following daughter goes to a fun summer camp, learns the taste of freedom (and goes crazy) which leads to her rejecting her future and her parents. This isn’t exceptionally original or interesting, as far as plots go.

In the end, I was right. I didn’t love this book very much. At Loveboat, Ever gets stuck in a love triangle (sigh). There is some cheating that is disguised as not-cheating, a lot of drama (most of it unnecessary), and girl hate. Like seriously, I do not understand the friendship–if you can call it that–between Sophie and Ever. There were some things that surprised me in a good way, though. The daughter of immigrants and the “your dream not mine” plot line was surprisingly well-written. Ever does not completely discount her parent’s perspective and admits that their sacrifice is not something she can ignore, even if a future of dancing means more to her than anything. For such a shallow novel, these type of discussions were surprisingly nuanced.

Unfortunately, most other discussions were not. Some heavy topics are brought up in the novel, like depression, gender stereotypes, and the stigma of dyslexia, but aren’t fully developed or discussed. Some plot points don’t add up (Sophie spending loads of money but her backstory being the fact that she’s poor, for example). We are introduced to some characters that don’t show up again, such as Meghan. Also I don’t want to spoil anything but the last couple of chapters were SO rushed and most of it didn’t logistically make sense…

Some plot lines show surprising depth and are fun to read but the shallow drama and emotional/romantic manipulation throughout the book makes it a very frustrating read. A fun setting with cultural nuances but flat characters and too much teenage drama. 7/10.