A Pho Love Story Review: The Novel That Has It All

March 25, 2021 by Jenna | 5 stars, Books, Reviews

A Pho Love Story Review: The Novel That Has It AllA Pho Love Story by Loan Le
on February 9, 2021
Source: Purchased
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, Own Voices, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Barnes & Noble
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If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.
If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.
For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.
But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.
Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?
When Dimple Met Rishi meets Ugly Delicious in this funny, smart romantic comedy, in which two Vietnamese-American teens fall in love and must navigate their newfound relationship amid their families’ age-old feud about their competing, neighboring restaurants.

I’m very sad that I didn’t have a big bowl of pho to eat while I was reading this book. Maybe one day I’ll reread it while visting my favourite local Vietnamese restaurant (though, the staff would probably discourage that as there’s always a queue out the door).

I don’t really have enough words to express how much I loved this book and related to it. While I’m not Vietnamese, there were so many moments in there that I related to as someone who is Chinese. A Pho Love Story really reminded me of The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, though A Pho Love Story has a completely different plot and lighter themes around coming of age and identity.

A Pho Love Story has everything that I love about a good contemporary YA novel. I absolutely loved the rich storyline and plot that explored the themes of growing up as Asian-Americans who are expected to be high-achieving and family-oriented, transitioning out of high school and trying to find your own purpose in life, and keeping hold of and being proud of your identity and heritage. Although the pace is a little bit slow, I loved how the story unfolded and how thoroughly the themes were explored. I was initially a bit worried about how much of a Romeo and Juliet story this would be, especially as it was referenced a few times in the book itself, but I found it to be a refreshing take on a YA romance.

I really loved the two main characters, Linh and Bao, in this novel. I enjoyed the alternating perspectives and the fact that that allowed me to really get to know both characters. And I really related to both of them and their struggles to find a path for themselves that they could call their own. And I absolutely loved their relationship with each other and the slightly slow burn of their relationship. They really brought out the best in each other and I love them to bits!

And I absolutely loved some of the side characters! I think Chef Le was perhaps my favourite character of the book – he definitely had the vibe of a big brother who provided guidance to Linh and Bao… but also seemed like such a dad. I also loved Viet, Bao’s best friend, and all his infinite wisdom.

But most of all, I loved all of the food references. My mouth was watering the entire time! It’s so strange how food ties people together you get such a great sense of that from this novel. The novel mentions many moments where food elicits special memories – like Bao’s mother associating eating banh xeo with monsoon weather in Vietnam. The way culture and history was explored, as well as what it means to be Asian diaspora, really captured me.

What’s not to like about a book about food, family, friends and love? I thoroughly enjoyed A Pho Love Story and am looking forward to getting my hands on anything else Loan Le comes out with.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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