A Phở Love Story by Loan Le
Published February 9th 2021 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
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.
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?
Thank you to Colored Pages Book Tours for choosing me as one of the participants in the #APhoLoveStory tour. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. If you’re interested in the other tour stops, check out the schedule!
While this is a romance story that surrounds both Bảo and Linh, there are overarching themes of immigrants, family, the business feud, and self-discovery. Interwoven with the family feud and budding romance is the trauma experienced by Bảo and Linh’s parents during the Vietnamese war. Loan Le’s descriptive writing of the Vietnamese cuisine is delicious. Her illustrative prose left me salivating every other page. A delightful story about two young adults finding their way while navigating deeper and more difficult topics.
Starting with Linh, as an aspiring artist/painter, she’s worried about her parents’ reaction to her choice of career. To them, it’s a bleak and unstable path to pursue, and just a hobby. They would rather she become an engineer or, like Evie (Linh’s older sister), a doctor. Throughout A Phở Love Story, knowing their resistance, Linh could never speak up about her passion about painting in front of Mẹ and Ba.
For Bảo, though college applications are coming up, he has no clue about what he wants to do. Similar to Linh’s parents, and Asian parents in general, Bảo’s prompts him towards a high-paying job, being a doctor. When Bảo was thrown into an assignment with Linh, writing felt natural. Unexpectedly, he found something he was good at and enjoyed.
Both Bảo and Linh are amazing characters. With family as an integral part of A Phở Love Story, the main characters’ internal conflict often loosely connects with their own parents. Guilt tripping by Asian parents was often brought up especially when their Mẹ and Ba had to build the business from ground up as immigrants to ensure a stable home and better future for their kids. How can Bảo and Linh complain about or disregard their wishes? Both of them have to balance their parents’ sacrifice and expectations while making their own decisions for their own lives.
I enjoyed reading from both of their perspectives. Though their businesses are just across the street from one another, as the children of these feuding families, Bảo and Linh are brought up with their parents’ resentment and dislike for one another. Despite that, Bảo and Linh never understood their bad blood. Their romance was really cute. Bảo is consistently supportive of Linh’s passion for art while Linh encourages Bảo with his writing.
Memorable moment: the chapter that only has one line with Linh questioning “did he just pat my shoulder?” It was unexpectedly cute. 😂
Overall, Bảo and Linh’s romance was adorable and sweet. They offer each other an avenue to be entirely and unapologetically themselves. In the background is the conversation of Bảo and Linh’s Vietnamese immigrant parents who faced multiple obstacles and racism when they first arrived in the United States (and even current), and the painful experience they had fleeing their homeland that was wrecked by war. Their business feud runs deeper than any of them have expected. Loan Le’s A Phở Love Story is a heartfelt debut novel worth the read.
giveaway (US only)
Prize: Three (3) finished copies of A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
- Open only to US residents
- End on 19th February 2021
Click here for the giveaway!