Cover Image: Our Wayward Fate

Our Wayward Fate

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I think this one is a pretty important one for anyone wanting to read more about Asian stories. It discusses some real issues and unspoken rules of being an Asian immigrant. That being said, the actual flow of the story sometimes felt very off, distracting me from actually absorbing the story.
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This is an amazing second novel from Gloria Chao!

Ali had to deal with a ton of racism, living in a predominantly “white” town. I couldn’t believe the way that her peers and teachers would talk to her, including commenting on how good she must be at math and putting on a Chinese accent in front of her. She was born in America so she was just as much of an American as them. These racist people also assumed that she must date the new Asian boy in the school. It was heartbreaking to read the way people spoke to her.

I learned a lot about Chinese culture in this book. There was a Chinese folktale that was threaded throughout the story and united with the main plot in the end. It had to do with Ali’s mother’s secrets, which was another amazing and suspenseful subplot!

I liked that the Mandarin words weren’t translated directly into English. It brings the reader into Ali’s position of being on the outside of the culture she lives in. I could figure out what most of the words meant from the context, but I liked that it kept Ali’s culture prevalent in the story.

I loved this book!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Initially, Our Wayward Fate caught my eye because I'd heard a lot about Gloria Chao's debut, American Panda, and though I hadn't read it I'm always excited to see new books from Chinese authors. Honestly, I was expecting a typical contemporary romance from Our Wayward Fate. What I got was an exploration of being the children of immigrants and reconnecting to your culture intertwined with the cute romance. 

Ali is a really fun protagonist; she's very sarcastic without being overly sullen about it, mostly because a lot of her standoffishness is to cope with being the only Chinese person in a small town and the racism she experiences from her friends and classmates. I've never experienced the kind of racism that Ali does, but I've definitely had similar experiences, and I could really relate to pushing away my culture so I could fit in with my white classmates. 

So the main conflict in the book is between Ali and her immigrant parents who want the best for her while pushing her away from her boyfriend, Chase Yu, the other Taiwanese kid who moves to the town early on in the book. Even though he helps Ali reconnect with her Taiwanese identity, the politics within the Taiwanese immigrant community--and especially Ali's parents--keep them apart. Usually, I'm not really a fan of the forbidden romance trope, especially when it's heterosexual, but the one between Ali and Chase rang true to me. I did find the beginning of their relationship wasn't really developed well, but they did have a lot of chemistry towards the end of the book. 

I honestly wasn't a huge fan of Chao's writing. It read as overly rambly and somewhat immature to me, but there were a lot of funny and introspective moments; the last quarter or so of the book is really strong, and if the whole book was similar I think I would have enjoyed the writing more. One of the narrative choices I really liked was Chao's decision to leave most of the Mandarin used in the story untranslated, which made the dialogue more immersive. Ali's story is intertwined with the folk tale of the Butterfly Lovers, which I'd honestly never heard about before this book, but is a very well-known folk tale in China. 

Despite some of the problems I had with the romance and writing, I quite enjoyed Our Wayward Fate and found I could relate to a lot of Ali's experiences as a Chinese person. I definitely recommend this for those who are searching for diverse contemporary romance books that will make you think.
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Gloria Chao has truly come into her own as a writer with her sophomore novel. Our Wayward Fate, not only looks at the what it’s like growing up as a child of immigrants in a place where no one looks like you, but it does so by incorporating elements of the Chinese legend, The Butterfly Lovers in to her story. This mostly works well, although I initially disliked the sections that contained Chao’s twist on the legend as it took time away from Allie’s story which I found more compelling. I connected with many of Allie’s frustrations as I also grew up with a mostly white town. Like Allie, every time there was a Chinese kid my age, I was often paired with them, despite the fact that I’m not even Chinese. That being said, I did like Chase and Allie’s relationship as it was adorable how they bonded over their many similarities. However, I felt that their transition into being a couple was rushed at the start as the pacing was super-fast after Chase’s arrival since everything just starts blowing up socially all at once for Allie. Fortunately their romantic relationship gets more fleshed out with time. I also liked the direction the author took with Allie and Yun and what the two of them together with Chase end up doing in the end. Finally, I appreciated how Allie was able to grow and realized that while many in her small town are racist, she is not guiltless when it comes to having stereotypes about other people either.
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Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I really enjoy Gloria Chao's writing. I thought this was a really great story. I loved the voices of the character. I loved the vibe of the storytelling. Overall a really interesting book. Would buy for my own collection.
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I enjoyed the story, but I felt like the relationship happened a bit too quickly and it felt rushed at times. The chapters happening in the past were very intriguing and I enjoyed reading them. It was a good book, but maybe less my type of book.
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Our Wayward Fate is a much angrier, more frustrated, book than Gloria Chao's earlier novel American Panda. Its protagonist Ali Chu, the only Asian-American student in her mostly white school, has lived her entire life dealing with racist microaggressions -- and, quite frankly, horrifically overt aggressions -- from teachers and friends. The emotional toll this takes on Ali practically pulses off the page. We can feel her seethe as she smiles silently at another racist joke. We can sense her shame as she prepares a PB&J sandwich for lunch, because her classmates think congee is 'gross.' It's difficult to read at times, but important, and one wonders how much of this behaviour (even from teachers who should behave better!) goes unchallenged across North America.

Even Ali's conflict with her mother, also a major plot point in American Panda, feels more fraught here. Whereas Mei's mother was hyper-critical, Ali's mother outright keeps a major secret from a daughter, one that potentially has a major impact on Ali's future. While her actions are definitely wrong, I did find the mother a sympathetic figure, and couldn't quite work up as much righteous outrage as Ali and her friends did upon finding out. I love the scenes where we learn a bit more about Ali's mother's history, how she felt about the choices she made, how she dealt with the racism she experienced in America, and how her own experiences led to the decisions she made about Ali's future. I felt for her, and while I understand the perspective the narrator took, I wish Ali's mother had been treated with a bit more sympathy.

There is a romance -- between Ali and new student / fellow Taiwanese-American Chase Yu -- but it feels almost secondary to the story. There are some cute moments -- I love the flirting over kung fu (where their idea of a dream date involves a rooftop sparring session), and their text messages are filled with puns about their names (which honestly got old for me pretty quickly, but I can imagine a couple in love getting giddy over teasing each other that way). There's also an angsty conflict -- Chase's family has a troubled history, and Ali's mother doesn't approve of the relationship. 

But overall, Ali and Chase's connection felt less like teenagers in love and more like a pair of Taiwanese-American teenagers finally finding someone who helps them be more fully themselves. Unlike Ali, who had learned to sublimate her Taiwanese background in order to fit in, Chase enters the school utterly refusing to follow suit. He calls out racist behaviour in the classroom, advocates for classmates to pronounce Ali's name properly ('Āh-lěe', after a mountain in Taiwan, rather than the more Americanized 'Allie'), and eats Chinese food with chopsticks in the cafeteria. With his friendship and support, Ali becomes braver about standing up for herself and for who she is, and while it's disheartening to see the responses of some of her so-called friends, it's thrilling to see Ali grow.

I personally preferred the more light-hearted American Panda, probably because I related more to Mei than I did to Ali. But I think a lot of Ali's experiences at school will resonate with Asian-American teens. I hope those teens find this book, and, like Ali, understand that their voices matter.


Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved Gloria Chaos writing and could wait to get my hands on this one!

Ali is the only Taiwanese student in her school. She trys to fit in by bringing American food, not correcting how the same her name and just keeping her head down. But when a new boy start who is always taiwanese everyone assumes they are meant to be. There is resistance at first but they end up having great chemistry and quickly becoming close. When Alis parents find out they try to end things and Ali doesnt understand why. After a but of digging she uncovers a secret about her family and Chases family that changes everything. 

This book was good but it feels similar to others like it. I love the characters and the twist but it was much the same as others I have read.
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Thank you so much to Simon& Schuster Canada and NetGalley for letting me review this arc!!

After reading American Panda, I just knew whatever Gloria Chao wrote next would be a book I absolutely had to read. American Panda was difficult, and I went into Our Wayward Fate with the same expectation: that I would relate in so many ways, and it would hurt and dredge up old memories and feelings. Despite that, I don’t think I was ready ready? I had to take some breaks, which is fine, because honestly a part of me loves painful books because I feel seen and heard in ways I don’t in other books I’ve read.

There are so many secrets in this book. Like wow, I was not expecting as many twists and turns. I did not see the true intention of the park until it was revealed because I just wasn’t expecting this book to go there for some reason. And when I realized what was happening, I needed to take a break to process it all…

Beginning with Ali…I really loved the distinction between how Americans pronounce Ali (as Allie) and the actual pronunciation. It reminded me of my own middle name, which is also Ali, and how people pronounce it wrong all the time.

Ali is such a fun, messy character. She does and says things that are questionable and sometimes outrageously wrong, yet she has good intentions; she just struggles to voice them appropriately most of the time. Chase’s introduction at Ali’s school was just perfect. I really loved how bold he is and how he stands up against the racism he faces immediately. I loved how he brought out Ali’s spirited side. Seeing Ali change and stand up for herself against her “friends” and her teacher was so inspiring and heartwarming. It’s how I know a lot of kids would like to be, but it can be so scary when you don’t have the support you need from friends or family. 

The one problem I had with the romance was that it felt rushed. I think everything happened a bit too fast (though having read the arc and not the finished copy, I don’t know if things are the same). The timeline didn’t span a few months like I was expecting, and by the time Ali is off to China, she hasn’t really known Chase for all that long. But they’re absolutely obsessed with each other in that short span of time, which I guess is totally possible, I’m just picky with romance lol

The other issue I had was with the dialogue. Compared to American Panda, the characters in OWF acted a lot younger, even though they’re only a year or two apart from Mei and Darren. Some of the lines were cringey and the jokes repetitive. It did take me a while to get into the flow because it felt a little awkward at times. Though I think Ali and Chase grow into the characters more and things just fit better by the end?

The Butterfly Lovers…I actually had a friend tell me the story right as I was starting this book. I had no idea that this story was going to be such a major part of the book, so when I finally fit the pieces together I was shook lol. That being said, I really liked the differences in how the story ended compared to the original. I also loved the little snippets we get from the past, where we get to follow along with Zhu Yingtai and Liang Shanbo. And also the flashbacks we get from the park. The park scenes were a little confusing at first, but I think it was done really well because I was surprised when the plot twist was finally revealed. 

Ali’s relationship with her family was difficult to read, and honestly seeing what her mother had planned left me pretty angry. It was just something I could relate to on a personal level, something I could see happening to myself, and it was a little scary and triggering. I did love how Ali confronts both her parents and points out their flaws and how she doesn’t back down when they try to explain themselves with their nonsensical excuses. I was really angry at her mother because she’s so selfish. She ruined what she had because her expectations (which she didn’t bother sharing with her husband) weren’t met. She made decisions because she thought she knew best, which is something so common among Asian parents, I was rolling my eyes along with Ali every single time her mom told her that. 

The main problem here was lack of communication, which I think is a huge problem in Asian families. We don’t know how to talk about feelings and we also don’t know how to listen to other opinions. And then things become a mess and it just spirals. Communication was a huge theme in this book, from the way Ali skirts around just asking Chase about his past and turns to theft, to her breaking into her mom’s safe because her mom won’t talk to her, to seeing how her father was too ashamed to discuss his feelings with this wife when he lost his tenure, to Ali’s mother making decisions for her instead of talking to her.

It was painful to read. And while I liked how things were on their way to being resolved at the end, I was actually expecting things to go the divorce route, especially considering the things Ali’s mother said to her father and what she almost did to Ali. It is nice for things not to end that way, and it’s nice to see a family try to communicate with each other and solve their issues rather than everything falling apart. But…I don’t know. Maybe I can’t forgive that easily, or having an outside perspective makes me a bit more harsh. But Ali’s mother isn’t great and pretty toxic. And by the end I really hated her a lot. The cultural divide between Ali and her mother and how what her mother says isn’t 100% what she exactly means, was nice to see because it’s a real thing and it really showed how hard and complicated and confusing it can get when you don’t just have lack of communication but a communication divide because of culture. And while we can blame a lot of that for Ali’s mother’s actions, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that what she did was wrong and awful. And I did like how Ali made sure to point that out at the end too. Healing is a difficult process, filled with ups and downs, when one moment you hate everything and are so angry, and the next you feel pity and guilt and sadness. It’s a mess, and I definitely felt like I was a mess at the end.

4/5 stars.

I look forward to reading the finished copy one day, just to see the differences and how the formatting changes. (The epilogue did feel a little confusing because there weren’t any scene breaks in the arc.)
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3.5/ 5 stars

This book is a Young Adult contemporary romance that focuses on the cultural aspects of being a Taiwanese American teen living in the Mid-West.

I really liked American Panda so I knew that I wanted to read the author's newest book.

The narrator is 17 year old Taiwanese American Ali/Allie (1st person POV). She lives with her parents in Indiana and is the only Asian student at her school.

My favorite thing about this book was learning more about this culture. I think that this story really shows what it is like for some teens living in certain parts of the US that aren't as culturally diverse.

The start of this book was cute. Ali was struggling as the only Asian in her school. A lot of the teachers and students were very insensitive and racist.

A new Asian boy shows up at the school (Chase) and his family has secrets, as does Ali's family. This was a key focus of the book. These secrets added so much to the story.

Ali and Chase's story is intertwined with a love story from 19th China (a retelling of the Chinese folktale The Butterfly Lovers). I didn't love this part of the book. But I was intrigued with where the present story ended up.

The last half of the story was strong. And overall this was an enjoyable read.
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Firstly, I would like to thank NetGalley for an ARC of this book!

Our Wayward Fate follows Ali Chu, an Asian American who struggles with her identity. Her friends have called her Allie for years because Ali (Ah-lee) is too hard for them to pronounce (eyeroll) and one goes so far as to say it's "ew" and Allie is a better name. She accepts this for a long time, trying to blend in, until she meets Chase Yu. 

He challenges her beliefs and how she tries so hard to be as bland as white bread. Ali has family issues and there are secrets being kept from Ali. Soon, Ali finds out that Chase has secrets of his own. As Ali embraces her culture and history, she gains a new sense of confidence in her true self, but sometimes it causes trouble with friends, lovers, and family. She goes on a quest, both figuratively and literally, to find out more about her family, herself, and her purpose. 

This story is very cute. It's cheesy and doesn't take itself too seriously, the romance is cute and realistic. It's how teenagers in love act (and fight). The use of Mandarin is very beautiful, I love books that immerse you into the culture. I like the history of the Butterfly Lovers and how it ties into Ali and Chase. 

This story is about finding yourself, friendship, family, and love. It's beautiful watching Ali grow and learn about herself. It is fun watching her combat racism in her school, and who speaks up in her defence or against her.. The family dynamics (for Ali, Chase, and Yun) are so powerful and I know a few of my friends have these same struggles. Although this book is light and fun, it does touch on some serious points and makes you think deeply.

I'm giving it a 3.5 stars. I did like this book, it was cute, fun, and I was pleasantly surprised with it. It's good for anyone who likes romance (realistic or cheesy), stories about finding your true self, and trying to fix broken things (people, relationships, ideas, etc). I would read it again, and I would read more from this author.
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