Loveboat Reunion by Abigail Hing Wen. HarperCollins, 2022. 9780062957320
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? The story picks up right after the events of Loveboat Taipei, the first book in the series. Loveboat, a summer program where teens secretly party rather than learn, has come to an end, and all the students return to their normal lives. Sophie and Xavier are over each other after their disastrous relationship, ready to begin new journeys. Sophie is starting her first year at Dartmouth College and desperately wants to take a popular AI learning class taught by a leading professor in the field. Xavier plans to turn eighteen, grab his trust fund, and leave his father and the Yeh family forever. However, both catch a snag in their plans, sending them spiraling into panic. The AI professor thinks her fashion AI programming is too “soft,” aka not important enough to care about, so she has to write a brilliant proposal to convince him otherwise. Xavier’s father, a controlling and abusive man, withholds his trust fund until he graduates his senior year of high school, an impossible feat due to Xavier’s dyslexia. To save each other, Sophie asks Xavier to connect her to his aunt in Taipei who owns a fashion AI machine, and in exchange she will help him with a big school project that will save his grades. All this organizing leads to a giant Loveboat reunion in Taipei, with more than 200 people attending. Plans go astray, hearts are flustered, and more problems appear than anticipated. Worst of all, Sophie and Xavier may be developing feelings for each other again, despite their best judgment. Welcome to the Loveboat Reunion!
I will admit that I have not read the first book but was immediately drawn to the two protagonists, especially Xavier. As a reader, you want both of them to win: for Sophie to prove that a fashion AI bot is no less acceptable than more hardcore programming, and for Xavier to escape his awful father and family who disparage him for being dyslexic. The disability represenntation is much needed, especially as it shows how much it can affect teenagers all throughout their lives. Major characters in the story are Chinese or Chinese-American, and most of the book takes place in Taipei.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Not really. Apparently though, if you read Loveboat Taipei, then you might be annoyed that Sophie is one of the protagonists in Reunion, because she was definitely the unlikable antagonist in the first book. But if you are willing to give her a second chance, then you’ll see that she is trying to work on herself throughout the story.
To whom would you recommend this book? Anyone teenager who wants romance books full of hijinks and drama that feature Chinese or Asian characters.
Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Teen realistic fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Laila Carter, Boston Arts Academy, Dorchester MA
Date of review: May 24, 2022