When music prodigy Pearl Wong’s perfect summer goes up in smoke, she needs to find a place to lay low and rebuild her image. Enter Chien Tan, the cultural summer program that changed the trajectory of her older sister Ever’s life years ago. But it might prove more than she bargained for as Pearl learns firsthand what exactly alumni mean when they call the program by its nickname—Loveboat.
After leaving the world of Loveboat after two books, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to return again, this time alongside the younger Wong sister! I absolutely love when a minor character gets their own book and Pearl was the perfect character to return to the world of Loveboat with. The choice to set the story six years after the events of the last book was not only necessary for the story to work, but it also allows for Pearl to really shine while still paying homage to the characters we’ve already fallen in love with.
On the surface, it does feel a bit like a repeat of Ever’s story from the first book—the love triangle and the brand new best friend(s)—but there is enough of a difference that, while predictable, the story is still a fun ride. Pearl, like her sister, goes on a journey of self-discovery and really grows throughout the story as she experiences more new things. And one of the best parts is that we not only see Pearl grow into herself, but we see the people around her grow as well.
Speaking of the people around her, fans of the earlier Loveboat novels will be happy to see the return of Ever, Rick, Sophie, and Xavier. While this story is focused on Pearl, it also acts as an extended epilogue to the previous books and is a beautiful sendoff to all the characters, both new and old.
One of my favorite elements of this story was the deep dive that Pearl did into her culture and her family history. As she learned more about her history, she found things that made her feel more confident and sure of herself, a feeling that was sorely lacking prior to her trip to Taiwan. The Pearl from the beginning of the book and the Pearl at the end of the book feel like two different characters and I love that it was because she finally leaned into her culture, something that she didn’t even feel like she had before Loveboat.
LOVEBOAT FOREVER by Abigail Hing Wen is the sparkling conclusion to the Loveboat, Taipei trilogy and you can pick a copy of it here. Don’t forget to also grab your copies of LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI and LOVEBOAT REUNION while you’re at it!
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."