- Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen
Wen, Abigail Hing Loveboat, Taipei. HarperTeen, 2020 [432p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-295727-6 $18.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-295729-0 $10.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 10 up
At first, Ever Wong is horrified when her strict parents send her off to Taiwan for study camp after graduation in order to prep her for entering Northwestern's BS/ MD medical program in the fall. Soon, though, she's embracing the spirit of Chien Tan, the summer experience informally known as "Loveboat" for the hookups and partying to which the staff largely turn a blind eye. She bonds with her boy-crazy roommate Sophie, enjoys a flirtation (and first sex) with cool bad boy Xavier, and sorts through a push-pull connection with Rick (aka, in Ever's mind, "Boy Wonder"); more importantly, she reconsiders the family-driven decision for her to attend medical school despite her love of dance. Ever's a fan of musicals, and the book would convert nicely into one, from Ever's family strains to her summer transformation to an actual final dance performance at the National Theater of Taiwan and a sudden parental appearance and rapprochement. There's a sweetness [End Page 234] to Ever's rumspringa (even her daring nude is an old-fashioned and artistic print photograph), and the hothouse atmosphere of Chien Tai, with its intense relationships and clever balance between respectability for parents and opportunistic freedom for their offspring, is deftly conveyed.