Book Review: Loveboat Reunion by Abigail Hing Wen – A Story of Redemption, Reparenting, and Understanding

Blurb:

This companion novel to Abigail Hing Wen’s New York Times bestselling debut, Loveboat, Taipei, follows two fan favorite characters—Sophie and Xavier—as they reconnect and write their own futures on a wild, unexpected Loveboat reunion.

Sophie Ha and Xavier Yeh have what some would call a tumultuous past.

It’s a classic tale of girl-meets-boy, boy-meets-other-girl, heart-gets-broken, revenge-is-plotted, everything-blows-up. Spectacularly.

At least they’re friends now. They’ve left the drama behind them back in Taipei—at their summer program, Loveboat—forever.

Now fall is here, and it’s time to focus on what really matters. Sophie is determined to be the best student Dartmouth’s ever had. Forget finding the right guy to make her dreams come true—Sophie is going to make her future happen for herself. Xavier, on the other hand, just wants to stay under his overbearing father’s radar, collect his trust fund when he turns eighteen, and concentrate on what makes him happy, for the first time ever.

But the world doesn’t seem to want Sophie and Xavier to succeed. Sophie’s college professor thinks her first major project is “too feminine.” Xavier’s father gives him an ultimatum: finish high school or be cut off from his inheritance.

Then Sophie and Xavier find themselves on a wild, nonstop Loveboat reunion, each trying to resist the chemistry that originally led to them to combust. As they grow closer, they hatch a plan to take control of their own futures. Step one? Break all the rules.

Cuddle's review:

Loveboat, Taipei was an absolute force that was published at the beginning of 2020, and I distinctly remember reading it right as we heard about COVID. One of the reasons I remember it so distinctly is because Ever’s story was so intense, and I never wanted to put the book down. If you don’t remember, Loveboat, Taipei chronicles the summer when Ever Wong was 18, and was sent to Taiwan to attend a program for teens to learn Mandarin, but little did they know that it would lead to one of the most tumultuous seasons of her life. Abigail Hing Wen included portrayal of topics such as the incredible pressure that some Asian and Asian-American parents put on their children by comparing their achievements to other childrens’, and the feelings of inadequacy that can result. But most of all, it was an incredible roller coaster of a book that I wouldn’t soon forget.

I crossed my fingers that the companion novel would center around Xavier, because we saw so many facets of his personality in Loveboat, Taipei, and I wanted to read more about the portrayal of his shame stemming from his parents’ lack of understanding and compassion after he was diagnosed with dyslexia. I was so glad to find that Loveboat Reunion focuses on Sophie and Xavier, whose history with one another went from friends, to something more, to heartbreak, to a revenge plot and a lot of hurt all around.

As much as I loved Loveboat, Taipei, I think I love Loveboat Reunion even more. That sentiment probably stems from my love of angst (and my Pisces sun, and Type 4 enneagram),  nearly-new-adult age of the characters (my favorite), a woman with A LOT OF FEELINGS (I mean, same), and the authentic portrayal of generational issues in the Asian and Asian-American communities. On top of all of this, there are themes of forgiveness, reinvention, reparenting, and second chances.

Xavier’s storyline felt very familiar to me. There is something that resonates about the deep desire to become independent at 18 years old, but also the lingering resentment, combined with the conflict of the emotional duty to family because of the sacrifices they have made. We see instances where Xavier works through his internalized ableism and contempt due to his parents’ emotional abuse and blame following his dyslexia diagnosis. His father is also holding his trust fund from him until he graduates high school. In Loveboat, Taipei, Xavier was very closed off, because of the awful treatment he endured when he needed help, which resulted in his lack of openness with his feelings.

Sophie’s journey surrounded redemption, battling misogyny, accountability, and compassion. She is a freshman at Dartmouth, where she has vowed to herself not to get involved with boys again, and is doing her absolute most to get into a senior-level class with an esteemed professor. In Loveboat, Taipei, at points in time, Sophie was cruel to her classmates, and even though some of her actions are not excusable, there is greater understanding of the nuances of her reasoning. The understanding of compassion while holding accountability was a big part of Sophie’s journey in this companion novel.

The two of them find themselves in each other’s orbit again on the way back to Taiwan, and Sophie’s path intersects with Xavier’s family’s company, Dragon Leaf. Xavier grapples with the choice to interact with his family members while trying to help Sophie, confronting every aspect with his family of origin, and deciding what boundaries to set, while continuing to seek healing and connection. As a second-generation Chinese-Canadian (American), like Xavier found, the balance is so difficult to find and always a work in progress, as even something as seemingly simple as prioritizing your own needs comes with so much emotional gravity. The two of them are drawn to each other, but this time in a different way, more cautious, yet more tender (while still being super hot).

MY CONCLUSION:

If you enjoyed Loveboat, Taipei, but was a little unsure about the ruthlessness of the characters, and got a little emotional whiplash from the light speed at which the drama moved, I think you will adore Loveboat Reunion. The characters are more grounded and we got to know them better, which increased the depth of their development and growth. The general energy of the characters and plot felt more rooted, almost like the settling after the storm.

Is this book for you?

Premise in a sentence: Sophie and Xavier, each on a respective path of understanding themselves following a whirlwind summer in Taipei and an incredibly painful “breakup”, find themselves reconnected in the process of rewriting their own futures.

Genre: young adult, contemporary romance

Trigger/content warning: Emotional abuse, financial blackmail, misogyny, ableism

Find this book on:
Goodreads | Bookshop | Indiebound | Amazon

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