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A Pho Love Story

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for A Pho Love Story

  1. 5 out of 5

    jessica

    i read this book on an empty stomach - i am not a smart person. THERES. SO. MUCH. FOOD. haha. and ive never actually had pho before, but now im super interested in trying it! so theres one positive for this book. some more positives would be everything about the vietnamese culture, the own voices storytelling, baos gentleness, linhs drive, the easy-going writing, and the super cuteness of it all. my only minor critique would be the slow pacing and long length - its just not a good combination as i i read this book on an empty stomach - i am not a smart person. THERES. SO. MUCH. FOOD. haha. and ive never actually had pho before, but now im super interested in trying it! so theres one positive for this book. some more positives would be everything about the vietnamese culture, the own voices storytelling, baos gentleness, linhs drive, the easy-going writing, and the super cuteness of it all. my only minor critique would be the slow pacing and long length - its just not a good combination as it felt like it dragged down an otherwise light story. but other than that, this book will have you smiling and your stomach grumbling. ↠ 3.5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lien

    As a pho-natic, just looking at the word makes me hungry. This will be pho-nomenal. Pho sure. Sorry, I’ll stop now. Pho real.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Loan Le

    Wow. I published a novel? I'm still trying to comprehend that. Thanks for stopping by this page and giving me your stars. Whether you gave me five stars or one star, that's up to you. I'm just glad you saw something in A Phở Love Story initially--the cover, the description, my author bio (probably not; I'm boring)--and thought, hmm, okay, I'll check this out. From the bottom of my heart: Thank you. Readers, you matter so much. Set in present-day California, A Phở Love Story is about first love, Wow. I published a novel? I'm still trying to comprehend that. Thanks for stopping by this page and giving me your stars. Whether you gave me five stars or one star, that's up to you. I'm just glad you saw something in A Phở Love Story initially--the cover, the description, my author bio (probably not; I'm boring)--and thought, hmm, okay, I'll check this out. From the bottom of my heart: Thank you. Readers, you matter so much. Set in present-day California, A Phở Love Story is about first love, family expectations, and food rivalry. This is inspired not only by my obsession with food (phở, always) and by my experience as the daughter of immigrants pursuing a creative career, but also by my family who've always worked hard to provide the younger generation opportunities they didn't have. As a young adult reading young adult novels, I was often puzzled by the absence of families or parents--even though I understood that coming of age was about forming your own identity. But my identity was, and still is, undoubtedly tied to my parents, to my family. I am the child of immigrants--one being a refugee. My mom escaped Vietnam by boat with her sister, her sister's husband, and my two young cousins. That's a part of my identity. Despite this harrowing history--and while the teen characters do feel some of the war's shadows through their parents--I wrote this novel out of joy. Happiness. If you love funny, life-affirming novels about young adults trying to figure out what they truly want, this is for you. If you want cute (awkward, flirty, uncertain) romance, this is for you. If you like characters who are firecrackers yearning to break out from a mold or characters who feel average but want to be MORE, this is for you. If you love food, this is for you. If you’re a child of immigrants or refugees, or have been stuck between two cultures, this is for you. If you love your families but don’t always totally understand them and want to, this is for you. This is for you. Thanks for being here. Be well! Loan

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    4.5 Stars TW for loss of a loved one and racism This was such a cute YA romance!! I really loved how Bao and Linh haven't talked to each other for their entire lives because of their family feud until Bao approaches Linh outside of her restaurant their senior year when she's having a rough time. Their budding friendship was so cute and I loved how they both bonded over the pressure from their parents and the unknown of their futures. This was more a friends to lovers and they were forced to hang 4.5 Stars TW for loss of a loved one and racism This was such a cute YA romance!! I really loved how Bao and Linh haven't talked to each other for their entire lives because of their family feud until Bao approaches Linh outside of her restaurant their senior year when she's having a rough time. Their budding friendship was so cute and I loved how they both bonded over the pressure from their parents and the unknown of their futures. This was more a friends to lovers and they were forced to hang out through a school assignment, which was fun. Even though Bao and Linh had similar parents who were very strict and had high expectations for their children, they were still very different characters and had pretty different families, which I appreciated. The reason I knocked my rating down half a star is because I wanted just a little more from the romance. I think we had a long build up and then didn't really get a lot of them genuinely happy together. They were always worrying about their parents and then, of course, things blow up. I did enjoy how their families were forced to confront their issues and also confront what Bao and Linh genuinely wanted from their respective futures. And can we talk about the food? Both families own restaurants and this book had me hungry all the time! There was so much food and the atmosphere of this book was just amazing. I was lost in this world and could not get enough of this story! Overall, I really loved this book. The characters were all so memorable and the romance was adorable. This also tackles racism and the life of an immigrant, and Bao and Linh struggle being the children of immigrants with such high expectations and responsibilities placed on their shoulders. I couldn't recommend this enough!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Phuong ✯

    – 2.5 stars the bad: starting this book at 3 am when hungry and suffering because of all the food references the good: eating Pho while reading this book and feeling like I accomplished something, when in fact I didn't accomplished anything by doing that. 🤣 I was hoping to find something pho-nomental, but unfortunately everything was very pho-gettable. ━»•» «•«━━━━━━━━ WHAT WORKED ━»•» «•«━━━━━━━━ ➸ this is an own voice story so the viet rep is pretty accuate which is like a huge plus pho p – 2.5 stars the bad: starting this book at 3 am when hungry and suffering because of all the food references the good: eating Pho while reading this book and feeling like I accomplished something, when in fact I didn't accomplished anything by doing that. 🤣 I was hoping to find something pho-nomental, but unfortunately everything was very pho-gettable. ━»•» «•«━━━━━━━━ WHAT WORKED ━»•» «•«━━━━━━━━ ➸ this is an own voice story so the viet rep is pretty accuate which is like a huge plus pho ppl who aren't familiar with viet culture and are interested to read about it. ➸ cute, light and easy to get through. ➸ the food. all the food pho sure. ━»•» «•«━━━━━━━━ WHAT DIDN'T ━»•» «•«━━━━━━━━ ➸ the pho-bidden romance between two rival families sounded good on paper pho sure, but felt very flat. The two main characters Linh and Bao just meet everywhere and pretty much everyone besides their parents knew they were seeing each other so that was boring. I need a little more angst than that. ➸ the whole reason why the two families hate each other is kinda stupid, because it's just another misunderstanding/miscommunication and if they only would sit down and talk about it (what should be expected since they were so close before everything fell apart) then all the headache could be avoided. ➸ there are a lot of vietnamese phrases/words without any translation. for me it wasn't a problem since I could understand everything, but I imagine it to be a different language and it would definitely destroy the reading flow to constantly look up the meaning and copying everything in google translator. a translation for everything would be great for ppl who don't speak the language. just looking at this gif makes me want to eat again.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tova

    This looks ridiculously cute, and I am super excited.

  7. 4 out of 5

    michelle (magical reads)

    read on my blog rep: ownvoices Vietnamese-American protagonists and side characters **I received an ARC from the publisher through Netgalley (thank you, Simon Teen!). These are my honest opinions, and in no way was I compensated for this review.** If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been screaming about this book for literal years. I’ve been so hyped for it for so long, and when I finally got the chance to read an ARC, I dropped everything for it! A Pho Love Story was the Vietnamese read on my blog rep: ownvoices Vietnamese-American protagonists and side characters **I received an ARC from the publisher through Netgalley (thank you, Simon Teen!). These are my honest opinions, and in no way was I compensated for this review.** If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been screaming about this book for literal years. I’ve been so hyped for it for so long, and when I finally got the chance to read an ARC, I dropped everything for it! A Pho Love Story was the Vietnamese-American contemporary that I’ve been waiting for, with a cute romance and complex family histories. Linh is an aspiring artist who knows her parents would be disappointed by her choice of career. Meanwhile, Bao doesn’t yet know what he wants to do despite college being on the horizon. Their families own rival pho restaurants; however, there seems to be a darker history underlying their rivalry. Thus, Linh and Bao haven’t really interacted despite having met and going to the same school, but one day, they’re partnered up to write pieces for their newspaper on restaurants that would be good date spots. Overall, the story was very cute. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a romantic comedy, though, because it deals with some fairly heavy trauma (which I’ll touch on later). I liked the characters; Linh and Bao are such well-written protagonists, and you really understand their dreams and desires. The side characters were great too. Linh’s best friend, Allison, is ambitious and meddling and essentially the reason why they start to like each other. Bao’s best friend, Viet, is also dependable and supportive and loves crime shows. We also see a lot of Linh’s and Bao’s parents, which is fairly abnormal for YA novels. The romance was cute! I do want to clarify that this book isn’t a hate-to-love story; instead, Linh and Bao click from the very beginning. Rather, their relationship lies more on the forbidden side because their families hate each other so much. My favorite aspect of this book, however, is the Vietnamese-American representation. I loved seeing Vietnamese culture sprinkled throughout the book, even just the little things like the food and mentions of Paris by Night blaring in the background at all times (if you know, you know). Also, it was nice seeing the Vietnamese phrases throughout the book! Honestly, I laughed a bit when I read “trời ơi” written. I will be honest and say that this book was fairly similar to other typical Asian-American stories with protagonists who want to pursue an arts career despite their parents’ disapproval, so that aspect of the story wasn’t necessarily new…and honestly, I’m a little over it simply because I never had to go through that but that’s just me. However, I really liked how this book made this situation more specific to a Vietnamese-American experience in that many people of Vietnamese descent and of my generation (speaking broadly) have parents who are refugees from the Vietnam War. There’s a lot of trauma there, obviously, and has led them to want stable lives for their children, especially financially. Obviously, this is applicable for many other Asian Americans, but it was just so fascinating for me to read it from a singularly Vietnamese-American lens, which again, I haven’t really seen in a YA contemporary. Also, this trauma from the war is very up-front and is the reason why I said this book isn’t a romantic comedy. Linh’s and Bao’s parents’ stories of their life in Vietnam are an integral part of the book. I won’t say it’s super heavy; it’s just that this book wasn’t as light as I was expecting, not that that’s a bad thing; I just want to clarify this for other people. So again, a lot of people of Vietnamese descent in my generation have parents who are refugees, who fled from their homeland and have had to build up their life in other countries. This was something that is so specific to Vietnamese diaspora (again, speaking broadly and not only for Vietnam) that I didn’t even know it was something I wanted to see in a book until I read it. I just related to this so much more than when I’ve been reading East-Asian-American stories over the past ten years, so I really appreciated being able to read this book. A Pho Love Story had some adorable moments but also explored heavier issues, such as familial trauma. It intertwined so many great aspects of Vietnamese culture throughout the story, and I also really enjoyed the characters and their dynamics. I definitely recommend A Pho Love Story if you like Gloria Chao’s books! original review: yes hi the Vietnamese-American representation in this book made me cry

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shealea

    Will not finish - 37% A Pho Love Story was listed as part of my most highly anticipated 2021 releases. And so, it hurts my heart a little to admit that I don't have the energy to finish this book. This isn't a badly written book. It's just not a story for me. I know that A Pho Love Story will resonate deeply with a lot of readers from the Asian diaspora, especially among immigrants. In fact, I highly recommend reading the reviews of Michelle and Lauren. However, as someone who's been born and r Will not finish - 37% A Pho Love Story was listed as part of my most highly anticipated 2021 releases. And so, it hurts my heart a little to admit that I don't have the energy to finish this book. This isn't a badly written book. It's just not a story for me. I know that A Pho Love Story will resonate deeply with a lot of readers from the Asian diaspora, especially among immigrants. In fact, I highly recommend reading the reviews of Michelle and Lauren. However, as someone who's been born and raised in Asia, I guess I've reached a point where I crave representation that goes beyond the struggles of being Asian and American. Quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of this lens. And that's not a reflection of the author's writing. It's a reflection of where I am mentally and emotionally as a reader seeking characters who look like me and live like me. Moreover, while I cannot comment on the book as a whole, I will say that I think there's a missed opportunity here. I was really looking forward to the intensity and tension derived from rivals turned lovers. However, the relationship between Linh and Bao is more of a forbidden romance, and I was a bit disappointed that the rivalry is solely between their parents. In fact, Linh and Bao identify their common ground right away and easily bond. This is also partially why my interest immediately declined. I would've loved to see them being ruthlessly competitive, slowly unlearning their biases, and working towards bridging the chasm between their families. But alas, this is not that story. On a more positive note, A Pho Love Story delves into the trauma experienced by refugees of the Vietnam War, which is a discussion that is very sorely-needed. Undoubtedly, this debut novel brings something meaningful to the YA contemporary genre. Disclosure: I received a digital ARC of A Pho Love Story from its publisher (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. 🌻🍃 More bookish content on Shut up, Shealea 🍃🌻 instagram • pinterest • twitter • ko-fi

  9. 5 out of 5

    Teodora

    3.5/5 ⭐ I appreciate this book. And I say that because first of all, it was a really quick and very cute read with an adorable love story and with lots of yummy-sounding dishes! For real, food should always be top priority when it comes to cute love stories. Second of all, I did appreciate the little insights we get in here about the Vietnamese culture. Like the uncultured swine I am, I have to admit that I haven't crossed paths with many Vietnamese things in my life so this was definitely a very ed 3.5/5 ⭐ I appreciate this book. And I say that because first of all, it was a really quick and very cute read with an adorable love story and with lots of yummy-sounding dishes! For real, food should always be top priority when it comes to cute love stories. Second of all, I did appreciate the little insights we get in here about the Vietnamese culture. Like the uncultured swine I am, I have to admit that I haven't crossed paths with many Vietnamese things in my life so this was definitely a very educational story for me regarding that. Thank you for it! Yes, it might have been a bit predictable at parts, the storyline being simple, but overall it was a very cute read that I recommend if you need some light and fluffy reading!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Saniya (sunnysidereviews)

    Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Publishers for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. First let’s talk about the plot! The original premise sounded very promising, and the plot was executed pretty well. The readers were able to get lovely descriptions of Phở and other delicious Vietnamese foods, which made me, admittedly, very hungry. Unfortunately, I felt as though we didn’t get much time in the restaurants. It would have been so cool to see all the Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Publishers for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. First let’s talk about the plot! The original premise sounded very promising, and the plot was executed pretty well. The readers were able to get lovely descriptions of Phở and other delicious Vietnamese foods, which made me, admittedly, very hungry. Unfortunately, I felt as though we didn’t get much time in the restaurants. It would have been so cool to see all the steps it takes to establish a restaurant. The characters were a delight! Bao was snarky and always made me laugh. He was honestly just a really kind and caring character towards everyone really. I loved how the idea of not knowing what he wanted to do in the future was executed in the novel. Uncertainty about the future is a very real that people go through, so it was definitely cool to see! Linh on the other hand knew she wanted to be an artist. It’s wonderful to see young people pursuing the arts, and I loved how Loan Le incorporated Linh’s family into her art. Linh’s inspiration for creating art was very beautiful and I found myself liking her character. However, she wasn’t as memorable as I thought she’d be. Moreover, Linh and Bao had a very healthy relationship. They were so cute together, and made a fantastic team! There was some miscommunication, but it was worked out throughout the novel! The side characters were unique as well. I loved how the cast was almost all Vietnamese. It was very refreshing to see! Linh’s friend Ally, and Bao’s friend Viet, where great supporting characters. They were both helpful, and funny. I only wish the author went more in depth into the lives of the side characters. I also absolutely adored the family dynamic. The tension between the two families felt raw and realistic. Another character I enjoyed reading about is Chef Le and his family’s hilarious cameos. It was nice to see a very wholesome relationship between the Mai sisters. Evie and Linh have a lovely sibling dynamic that I wish was explored more in the book. A Pho Love Story is gorgeously done in terms of creating a sense of community within families, and I fell in love with that. Having a loving family is something very special, so I am very happy it was explored vividly throughout the novel. The dialogue between Linh, Bao, and their friends felt pretty average, nothing ground-breaking was said. It was the dialogue between the main characters and their parents that really intrigued me. I haven’t read many YA novels where the parents and children had intricate relationships. Furthermore, it was very interesting to see Vietnamese spoken throughout the book. I love learning about different languages and cultures, so this only added to the enjoyment of the novel! I unfortunately struggled with the writing style. The point of view switches from Bao to Linh, and vice versa every 10-15 pages or so. I found myself struggling with trying to understand if the we were in Bao’s head, or in Linh’s. At other times, the story felt repetitive and boring. In my opinion, A Pho Love Story didn’t need to be over 400 pages long. If it was slightly shorter, I’m sure I would have loved it even more. As mentioned previously, the book seemed to drag on at times. That did affect the overall enjoyment level by a lot. Nevertheless, it was still an incredibly refreshing read that I totally recommend! Age Rating: 13 and up TW: Stories of war and death Final Rating: 7.25/10 or 4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ You can read more reviews and other fun stuff on my blog! https://sunnysidereviews.wordpress.com/

  11. 4 out of 5

    delaney

    Vietnamese-American author!!!! YES!!! But—Those last 100 pages were A STRUGGLE. That’s my two opinions of A Pho Love Story: love the Vietnamese representation, didn't love the execution all together so much. Let's start with the positives, so anyone reading this review will still want to pick it up! As a Vietnamese-American myself, I especially loved the little Vietnamese things in here: Garden Grove/Little Saigon setting, savage Vietnamese moms, the food, mannerisms/way of speaking, language, e Vietnamese-American author!!!! YES!!! But—Those last 100 pages were A STRUGGLE. That’s my two opinions of A Pho Love Story: love the Vietnamese representation, didn't love the execution all together so much. Let's start with the positives, so anyone reading this review will still want to pick it up! As a Vietnamese-American myself, I especially loved the little Vietnamese things in here: Garden Grove/Little Saigon setting, savage Vietnamese moms, the food, mannerisms/way of speaking, language, exploration of being a first gen, respecting where your parents have come from but then also living a life for yourself. Now let's move on to the bits that I didn't enjoy as much and made me feel lukewarm about the entire book. The book is written in dual first-person present-tense—Linh and Bao—whose families are rival restaurants from across the street. So, you see, they actually have a lot in common. In fact, they really don't care about this whole rivalry and have always been curious about each other. Therefore, both Linh and Bao sounded way too similar for me. It felt like I was reading the same person, x2, and different genders. They were boring, Bao especially. (Why does literature have such boring Asian male characters?) There would be specific sentences written in Linh's POV that were repeated in Bao's POV. It would've been more interesting to have different Vietnamese experiences…and to better differentiate between the two characters. Considering this may be someone’s first encounter with Vietnamese culture, it’s a loss to make it seem like ALL our families are the same. Sure we have similar quirks, but people have various personalities. The whole LOVE STORY, as seen in the title, was...ALL RIGHT? This read way too cheesy. Okay, I admit, if I saw a Vietnamese boy I would usually associate him as a cousin rather than as "boyfriend material." BUT they liked each other way too fast. There wasn't chemistry. All the side characters seem to see more of their chemistry and love for each other than I did. Because they are both so indifferent to the rivalry between their families (specifically their moms) it didn't feel fully fleshed out. It plays a huge part in the last 100 pages of it (when all the DRAMA gets dumped onto you for shits and giggles). I didn't feel the tension between the two family because there was a stronger highlight on the romance, stronger even then the individual characters' storylines. The romance just overtook the entire book; and it wasn't even cute! All in all, however, Loan Le has produced a solid debut novel. One with a lot of heart and I'm sure it meant a lot to her. It's a win in my heart for Vietnamese-Americans to be represented anywhere. But I just wanted a little more from it all.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    I really enjoyed this book! I found both Linh and Bao relatable (and for different reasons), and I appreciated getting the chance to see their story unfold (including the drama between their families and how that played out). It also made me crave all sorts of food, but particularly Vietnamese food. Definitely a debut worth checking out!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

    Romance novels about food are my favorite kind of romance

  14. 5 out of 5

    Prerana

    This is the type of book I want to read everyday. I am usually not a big fan of romance novels that do not star adults because they are often not written well or they are too angsty or they try to market first love/young love as the end-all, be-all. However, I found myself really into just a few of these books in the recent years, and the thing I noticed was that all of them did not star white characters. What a concept. Once you let go of the whiteness, the books are not a coming-of-age story wh This is the type of book I want to read everyday. I am usually not a big fan of romance novels that do not star adults because they are often not written well or they are too angsty or they try to market first love/young love as the end-all, be-all. However, I found myself really into just a few of these books in the recent years, and the thing I noticed was that all of them did not star white characters. What a concept. Once you let go of the whiteness, the books are not a coming-of-age story where teenagers can go on adventures everyday and fall in love and give up on everything else and have every part of their lives romanticized. Maybe some people really enjoy those books (I know plenty who love them), but I, as an Asian American, very firmly do not. I do not have anything against them morally, and if you enjoy them and/or can relate to them, go off. I just cannot? They do absolutely nothing for me? I literally could not care less about white coming-of-age stories. A book like this, however? I thoroughly enjoyed it. One, I could relate to it. Two, it just made logical sense because they did not decide that this love was the person they were going to marry and everything was going to fix itself and that they were going to go to the same college together and then move to the same city and then spend the rest of their lives together. A concept. Three, it was sweet and cute, but with just the right amount of life emotions. By life emotions, I mean, the heavy stuff. The thinking you do when something fundamentally shifts in your life. When your perspective changes. When you view the world differently. This book had the correct amount of life emotions. I really loved this book. I want to read more diverse stories that are relatable to a wider range of audiences. This book checked off all the boxes for me. And my absolutely favorite part of the novel was the Vietnamese. She just kept the Vietnamese in there. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hate it when authors put in a different language and then feel an obligation to translate every word and make it intensely palatable to white people. Please don't feel the need to do that. Look at it this way: I do not speak Vietnamese (a tragedy, I know, I really should get on my language grind); however, I still appreciated every line, and it did not hinder my experience at all to not understand the language. I recently read a novel starring Indian characters (being Indian, I do happen to understand Hindi and other Indian languages), but after even a single word that was not in the white vernacular (for example, a name of a food dish?????), the author chose to translate or explain everything. What a bore! How utterly useless! Why would you waste my time like that? If you are white, and you do not understand something you read, look it up!!! My god. And something as simple as a food dish? You literally can look that up. Anyway, returning to this amazing book. I absolutely loved it. I found it relatable, I connected to it, and I left it feeling satisfied. I recommend this book wholeheartedly. And I'm out.

  15. 5 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    The Mai and the Nguyen family have been rivals forever, since long before the Mai family set up a rival Vietnamese restaurant across the street from the Nguyen's restaurant. Bao Nguyen and Linh Mai have been forbidden to speak to each other, but when Bao sees Linh in the alley one day, he gets curious...and the two realize they have a lot in common. Now if they can only hide their growing attraction from their feuding parents. This was absolutely delightful, although definitely DO NOT read this h The Mai and the Nguyen family have been rivals forever, since long before the Mai family set up a rival Vietnamese restaurant across the street from the Nguyen's restaurant. Bao Nguyen and Linh Mai have been forbidden to speak to each other, but when Bao sees Linh in the alley one day, he gets curious...and the two realize they have a lot in common. Now if they can only hide their growing attraction from their feuding parents. This was absolutely delightful, although definitely DO NOT read this hungry. You have been warned. As a loose, Romeo and Juliet retelling, this 100% works (minus the death and tragedy at the end—this isn't 14th century Italy). In between the ahhhhmazing descriptions of food were two kids growing up, discovering their passions, and maneuvering between the expectations of their parents and their own desires. Linh knows her passion. She's an artist, but her parents are determined that she become an engineer and have a steady, stable, secure future free from strife and worry, unlike her aunt Di Vhang, who is a semi-famous ceramics artist (her parents only see the struggle throughout the years and not the success). Bao doesn't know what he wants. He's been driftless for his entire life, between helping his parents run their restaurant and figuring out what he wants in a world where everyone seems to have already found their niche. When Linh's friend Ali—editor of the school newspaper and the bane of Bao's life—discovers he has a flair for writing (and finds an idea to make students want to read the paper), she assigns him a new beat: review restaurants and become a food critic. His partner, who would accompany his words with gorgeous artwork of food and decor? Linh. The two slowly realize they have a lot in common, and a lot of chemistry, and slowly began to work through their emotions and dig into the mysterious history of why their parents hate each other so much. Anywho, I really, really loved this. I liked Linh's determination and emphasized with her slowly spiraling anxiety, and I felt for Bao and his don't-rock-the-boat mentality (his mom wins for best reaction to her child wanting to pursue a less-than-secure career). I loved the commentary on Vietnamese immigration, with the continued emphasis that not all backgrounds are a monolith, and that countries have (surprise, surprise!) a lot of variety within them. Reading about all of the hard work put on by restaurant owners was fascinating, and I loved learning about the lives of restaurant kids and how they experience the world and each other. Plus, there is a lot on the sense of community, and how communities pull together (or not) around each other in the face of adversity and gossip. There is also some commentary on authenticity versus comfort, with a trendy white-owned fusion restaurant setting up shop in a white-dominant area of town and appropriating the culture of a people for the ~aesthetics~ and the exotic experience (and getting it all wrong, of course). Also, Saffron rules. I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

  16. 5 out of 5

    Trinity Tran

    I’m a pho-natic, so naturally, this book gets a 5 stars from me (no seriously, I can eat pho for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). But on another note, this book was ridiculously adorable! This book not only has Vietnamese protagonists but also takes place in Little Saigon, California–aka my home. Being able to read about Bolsa, La Quinta, and just places that I grew up around was so heartwarming. The descriptions of various settings were so home-y to me that I could vividly picture where the chara I’m a pho-natic, so naturally, this book gets a 5 stars from me (no seriously, I can eat pho for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). But on another note, this book was ridiculously adorable! This book not only has Vietnamese protagonists but also takes place in Little Saigon, California–aka my home. Being able to read about Bolsa, La Quinta, and just places that I grew up around was so heartwarming. The descriptions of various settings were so home-y to me that I could vividly picture where the characters were! Like the pitch, this book certainly came to *serve* with its delicious descriptions of food. By reading about banh xeo, bun bo hue, pho, and other Vietnamese food, it was as if I was transported from my college apartment in Pennsylvania to home in Little Saigon and my mom’s kitchen. Le truly poured so much love into the detailing of the food, you can really taste the textures and smell the aroma of the dishes. But another aspect of the book that I love so much is how it weaves the theme of food with love and community. Food, in this book, represents familial love, strength, and perseverance. Although food is one of the central themes, the book explores each of the characters’ individuality as they explore their own paths in life. This is a “coming-of-age” story about children of immigrants seeking to understand their own family’s stories as well as their own, and how they try to carve their own path apart from their parents’ expectations. But again, this is a cute rom-com! The stakes are pretty low throughout the book and can be categorized as “realistic fiction.” And underneath these themes, you get to read about fluffy scenes between Linh and Bao!! And also hilarious scenes of the characters’ family; it really felt like I was at home with my entire family while reading the book. And what’s a story about Little Saigon without immigrants representations? Le carefully crafted a story about family history, grief, but also immigrants and their community. It’s uplifting but also powerful, highlighting the importance of immigrants and their perseverance against adversity. Much like a bowl of pho, this book gave me comfort and warmth, reminding me of home.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Lanz

    This book definitely succeeded at something: making me hungry. Besides that, I was saddened to find the characters flat and hard to differentiate aside from their hobbies. The perspectives were so similar sounding that for a few chapters I thought both protagonists were women, until a specific pronoun clued me in that I’d been completely wrong about Bao. I found it a little funny that I could be so mistaken, but it has to be a fault of the narrative that led me to believe it for quite some time. This book definitely succeeded at something: making me hungry. Besides that, I was saddened to find the characters flat and hard to differentiate aside from their hobbies. The perspectives were so similar sounding that for a few chapters I thought both protagonists were women, until a specific pronoun clued me in that I’d been completely wrong about Bao. I found it a little funny that I could be so mistaken, but it has to be a fault of the narrative that led me to believe it for quite some time. ~★~ What is this book about? ~★~ A Pho Love Story is kind of like Romeo & Juliet between rival family-owned restaurants. Linh wants nothing more than to pursue art, but her parents would never approve of her doing so. Bao is unsure of his future career path, so with senior year coming to an end, he’s hoping to figure it out quickly. They both work for their parents’ Pho restaurant, and when they meet, they feel an instant connection despite their parents warning them to never speak with each other. Linh and Bao meet up in secret, and grapple with the possibility of disaster if their parents ever find out about their relationship. ~★~ It’s a shame that I didn’t enjoy this book, because the prose sounded really lovely. As I mentioned before, the protagonists didn't have much depth outside of their interests, which I felt took away from the book largely. I didn’t mind Linh and Bao in the beginning, but once the romance sparked I lost even more interest due to the odd pacing and execution of their relationship. “But in anything you love, isn’t there always some bit of sadness, some essence of suffering? That, to me, is what makes art worth it. Suffer through it—mine the emotions you keep inside yourself, face whatever’s emotionally burdensome, take control of it—then emerge reborn in the end.” Loan Le’s writing was probably the best thing about this book. I was able to get through it in two days or so despite not liking it, which is testament to the accessible narrative. It wasn’t the most unique writing style, but I can’t fault it much since it propelled the story even when the plot and characters didn't. Another small aspect I liked was the familial conversations near the ending. I was glad to see Linh and Bao’s parents learn from their past mistakes and work towards betterment. Thank you to Netgalley and Simon Schuster for the arc!

  18. 5 out of 5

    ✫erin✫

    a pho love story tried really hard, but it didn't pay off. the characters were flat and dull, the romance was horrible and at some point, it physically hurt me to continue reading. putting this one down and never picking it up again at about 40%. a pho love story tried really hard, but it didn't pay off. the characters were flat and dull, the romance was horrible and at some point, it physically hurt me to continue reading. putting this one down and never picking it up again at about 40%.

  19. 5 out of 5

    nora 🪐

    3.8/5 ☆ This book was one my most anticipated reads of the year. I had looked forward to reading this one ever since I heard about it. After all, it was a rom-com following two teenagers of vietnamese immigrants. This felt definitely aimed at me and my own family. And at most points, this book excelled! I was really engaged in the story, and found myself relating to some of the characters wayyyyy too much. Unfortunately, the plot became a bit bland after the second half. I didn't really know what 3.8/5 ☆ This book was one my most anticipated reads of the year. I had looked forward to reading this one ever since I heard about it. After all, it was a rom-com following two teenagers of vietnamese immigrants. This felt definitely aimed at me and my own family. And at most points, this book excelled! I was really engaged in the story, and found myself relating to some of the characters wayyyyy too much. Unfortunately, the plot became a bit bland after the second half. I didn't really know what more to expect than the love story between Linh and Bao. And they got together pretty early in the story. So after that, I was almost a bit bored. After all, it took me more than a month to get through this book. Either way, I did enjoy this book. But I just think that the timing of reading this book was a bit bad for me, as I was highly occupied with falling into the never-ending rabbit-hole called kpop ahah. --------------- AHHHH THE VIETNAMESE REP I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR MY ENTIRE LIFE

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany (Read By Tiffany)

    CAUTION: don’t read this book while hungry because you will find yourself craving a warm bowl of pho, savory egg rolls, crispy banh xeo, and so much more. Filled with the most delicious food descriptions and a sweet romance, A Pho Love Story explores the complexities of family expectations and forming your own identity. Through our main protagonists, Linh and Bao, we learn about the families’ rivalry in food and shared pasts, shaped by the Vietnam War. A Pho Love Story follows the dual perspecti CAUTION: don’t read this book while hungry because you will find yourself craving a warm bowl of pho, savory egg rolls, crispy banh xeo, and so much more. Filled with the most delicious food descriptions and a sweet romance, A Pho Love Story explores the complexities of family expectations and forming your own identity. Through our main protagonists, Linh and Bao, we learn about the families’ rivalry in food and shared pasts, shaped by the Vietnam War. A Pho Love Story follows the dual perspectives of highschoolers Linh Mai and Bao Ngyuen whose parents own competing pho restaurants in Little Saigon. While Linh dreams of becoming an artist despite her parents’ wishes, Bao struggles with the uncertainty of future career plans as the deadline of college looms closer. The relationship between our protagonists and their families felt achingly familiar from expressing love through quiet actions and accidentally misunderstanding one another due to generational differences. Throughout the story, Linh and Bao learn of their parents’ escape as refugees of the Vietnam war, and this message of a parent’s sacrifice in hopes of a better life for their children is one that many diaspora kids can understand. My biggest struggle with this book was that it felt WAY. TOO. LOOOONNGG. I honestly don’t think any YA contemporary book needs to be over 400 pages, especially since it doesn’t need extra room for world-building in comparison to fantasy books…but that might just be a personal preference. While the writing itself was easy to read, the length of the book made certain scenes feel unnecessary. I’ve also grown personally tired of the “protagonist wants to pursue an arts career against their Asian American parents’ wishes” plotline since I’m basic and pursued a YAPPIE (young asian professional) career, but I can understand why it’s significant and meaningful to other readers. While Linh and Bao’s romance does play a major role in this story, I found myself more invested in their parents’ interconnected past and the mouthwatering food descriptions and busy restaurant life. It might be because Linh and Bao get together very early on in the story so the conflict in their relationship was more due to their parents’ forbidding it versus a personal rivalry. All in all, I loved seeing how proudly Vietnamese this book was from the casual way the characters spoke a mix of Vietnamese and English with their family to the hustle and bustle of loving Vietnamese aunties. At the same time, the story thoughtfully reflects on the shared trauma that many refugees of the Vietnam War experienced and how those events had lasting effects on generations. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review! Blog (Read By Tiffany) | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

  21. 4 out of 5

    prag ♻

    THE COVER IS SO CUTE!!! I LOVE ILLUSTRATED COVERS

  22. 5 out of 5

    Finitha Jose

    There is no need to wonder why 'Romeo and Juliet' is still popular. Times might have changed but we have similar scenarios even now, apparently. And thus we have 'A Pho Love Story' . . oh, don't worry . . . with a happy ending. After all, anything can be resolved if you can talk it out. I am neither Vietnamese nor American but anyone from Asian families can really relate to Loan Le's debut. The family rivalry is one thing and along with that is the pressing matter of following your dreams. Its a There is no need to wonder why 'Romeo and Juliet' is still popular. Times might have changed but we have similar scenarios even now, apparently. And thus we have 'A Pho Love Story' . . oh, don't worry . . . with a happy ending. After all, anything can be resolved if you can talk it out. I am neither Vietnamese nor American but anyone from Asian families can really relate to Loan Le's debut. The family rivalry is one thing and along with that is the pressing matter of following your dreams. Its all charming and inspiring, but by the end, it all comes down to one thing: economic security. Can we really blame their parents for looking out for their children? Reading the way Bao and Linh weave through this complex family situation was altogether rewarding and amusing. Linh is an aspiring artist and consequently bears the burden of her parent's expectations due to her talent in academics. Bao, on the other hand, is another story. He revels in being mediocre and that strategy eventually allowed him to walk on his chosen path without much family drama. Fewer expectations, fewer demands and more freedom. Isn't that clever? But my most favourite part is the Vietnamese food and culture referred throughout the story, like the right kind of spice to a curry. Struggles in a foreign country, racist remarks and language barrier all plays its part and one cannot but salute both these families. And I cannot forget Chef Le, our 'little' meddler. He surely is a force to deal with and the parts he were in is the quite memorable ones. His life, in a way, represents the future that awaits our cute couple. Whether it is love or career, a little bit of courage can surely make a change.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ruei (Ruei's Reading Corner)

    Full Review: https://rueisreadingcorner.blogspot.c... For as long as Bao can remember, he's always been told to stay away from Linh. The same also applies to Linh, whose parents also own a pho restaurant across the street from Bao's. The competitive rivalry is intense and both teens definitely don't plan to cross paths. Working at a restaurant is hard. Linh would much rather spend time on her art but since her family's part-time workers left, she needs to fill in. One busy night at Linh's family r Full Review: https://rueisreadingcorner.blogspot.c... For as long as Bao can remember, he's always been told to stay away from Linh. The same also applies to Linh, whose parents also own a pho restaurant across the street from Bao's. The competitive rivalry is intense and both teens definitely don't plan to cross paths. Working at a restaurant is hard. Linh would much rather spend time on her art but since her family's part-time workers left, she needs to fill in. One busy night at Linh's family restaurant causes her to cross paths with Bao. After seeing him, there's no denying that what she's heard is different from what she saw. After a friendly act by Bao, the two seem to hit off well. They start seeing each other a lot more and also collaborate on a school newspaper project. Spending time together has let them get to know each other more. In fact, they find out that they have more in common than they thought. Though the two teens now get along, the feud going on between the two families is only getting worse. Linh and Boa have set their differences aside, what about their families? This book was super cute and I adored everything in it! I loved reading the book from a dual perspective seeing both Linh and Boa's thoughts. The family relationship emphasis was done very well; I loved seeing both families' strong bonds together. I also loved the descriptions of Vietnamese food (made me hungry) as well as the sayings in the book the author added. Thanks to one of my best friends who's Vietnamese, I actually knew what some of the sayings in the book meant without googling. I rarely get to read books about Vietnamese MC's so this was a great experience. I absolutely love this book so I'm definitely looking forward to what the author writes next! **Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster Books for sending me an Advanced Reader's Copy in exchange for an honest review!**

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lunabookaddict

    I loved it so so so much. Omg can’t wait to have the finally copy in my hand ✨

  25. 5 out of 5

    Fanna

    July 01, 2020: You can't expect me to not be excited when a Vietnamese-American love story is said to be perfect for fans of When Dimple Met Rishi because EXCUSE ME. And then this cutest cover. July 01, 2020: You can't expect me to not be excited when a Vietnamese-American love story is said to be perfect for fans of When Dimple Met Rishi because EXCUSE ME. And then this cutest cover.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amelia Oswald

    It's cute but does it necessary to add a bunch of Vietnamese quotes and wordings with no footnotes? I can understand them I still find it annoying to other readers. (And to Vietnamese readers out there if you choose to read this book please don't take your political stance to judge this book). After finishing this book I already knew that it would be banned in Vietnam (for obvious reason). It's cute but does it necessary to add a bunch of Vietnamese quotes and wordings with no footnotes? I can understand them I still find it annoying to other readers. (And to Vietnamese readers out there if you choose to read this book please don't take your political stance to judge this book). After finishing this book I already knew that it would be banned in Vietnam (for obvious reason).

  27. 5 out of 5

    The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori)

    DNF @30% I had such high hopes for this one because I love books about restaurants, but this one fell flat. The dual first person POVs are too similar, which makes them ineffective. Also, the book is over 400 pages, which I find is unnecessary and makes everything drag. I don’t care enough about the story to endure another 300 pages.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    I’m mad at this book! Because that ending.... ahhhhhhhh gave me all the feels and I loved it so much. But the first 50% or so... it draaaaaged. At times I wanted to dnf so bored was I. This definitely felt like a book of two halves. The first half just didn’t have the right kind of pacing in my opinion. The real crux of the storyline felt like it just took too long to get going. It was inevitable from the get go that the two main characters Linh and Bao would get together. I have no issue with th I’m mad at this book! Because that ending.... ahhhhhhhh gave me all the feels and I loved it so much. But the first 50% or so... it draaaaaged. At times I wanted to dnf so bored was I. This definitely felt like a book of two halves. The first half just didn’t have the right kind of pacing in my opinion. The real crux of the storyline felt like it just took too long to get going. It was inevitable from the get go that the two main characters Linh and Bao would get together. I have no issue with this. They’re utterly adorable and perfect for each other, but they needed to get together more quickly because their relationship lacked that “will they, won’t they” vibe i.e. there was no delicious romantic tension in the build up to their becoming a couple. Instead the book placed the tension on the dynamics between their two families... which ultimately paid off because those last few chapters... GOT ME RIGHT IN THE FEELS! So I do wish that the book was a little more tightly edited. It definitely was too long in the first half; the paperback clocks in at just over 400 pages when really this book should have been closer to the 300 page mark. Another thing that irked me a little bit is that the book is written in chapters that alternate between the two main characters, Linh and Bao’s, points of view. This is a narrative technique that I love because it really allows me as a reader to empathise with both of the main characters and in my opinion it typically creates a more rounded and authentic feeling book with its depictions of human emotions. And for the most part the alternating chapters of A Pho Love Story did that... but ... and it’s a big ol’ but... I frequently found myself having to step back from the read for a second so I could remember which character was currently in the spotlight. This was because the voice given to both Linh and Bao was essentially the same. For alternating viewpoints to work I feel that there has to be a clear definition between the narrative voices of the characters... whether this is achieved by one character having a more passive tone, or perhaps one character using more similes or similar to describe their take on the world as they see it, or using first person perspective for one character versus third perspective for the other etc. etc. is all down to the author. I just wish there had been some sort of prose technique used to make the points of view feel sufficiently different from each other. What I loved about this story and what rescued the book for me is the story surrounding Linh and Bao’s families. The mystery as to why they hate each other was played out perfectly in the second half of the novel... I won’t say more because of spoilers but ooh chef’s kiss to that ending! And what was extremely touching was reading about difficulties they experience because they are both immigrant families. It was all written so beautifully that I couldn’t but be moved by it. There’s a part in the book that tackles racism in an almost quiet manner that truly floored me as I was reading it. I so enjoyed reading about Vietnamese culture because I’m not at all familiar with it. But more than anything I loved reading about the food!! There were a few instances when Bao especially was describing the food he was eating and omg was I ever so hungry! I also really liked how this was a book that put the emphasis on familial relationships and what familial love means in all of its warts and all glory. The familial relationships in Linh’s family especially were written with the most caring hand. They were complicated with the capacity to be frustrating and smothering almost... but then they were also gentle and so loving. A truly authentic feeling depiction of the complexities behind the most important relationships in our lives. So even though I had issues with the pacing and some of the narrative techniques early on in the read, this is still a book I’d recommend because it has fantastic representation of Vietnamese culture and a very sweet love story between two adorably cute characters. *An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review* Publishing 24th June 2021, Simon and Schuster Children’s UK For more reviews and book related chat check out my blog Follow me on Twitter Friend me on Goodreads

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jewel

    Finally, after reading a few disappointing new releases, I have a novel to add to my "2021 book recommendations" list. I've made no secret of the fact that it's hard for me to appreciate contemporary romance in high school settings. They're usually not my cup of tea because I'm not into light and fluffy, backbiting and popularity contests, and other typical high school factors. When I read those books, I tend to relate more with the older and more mature characters because many of the teenage ma Finally, after reading a few disappointing new releases, I have a novel to add to my "2021 book recommendations" list. I've made no secret of the fact that it's hard for me to appreciate contemporary romance in high school settings. They're usually not my cup of tea because I'm not into light and fluffy, backbiting and popularity contests, and other typical high school factors. When I read those books, I tend to relate more with the older and more mature characters because many of the teenage main characters I've met made me want to scream with frustration and feel secondhand embarrassment. I'm happy to say that "A Phở Love Story" is NOT one of those books. What stood out for me in this novel were Bảo and Linh's character development. Even though I'm Filipino-Chinese and they are both Vietnamese, I could relate with both of them. I know the pros and cons that come with working for the family business and having strict and traditional Asian parents as bosses. Loan Le did such a great job writing about the "child of the owner" struggles that I am now wondering if she went through the same experience. I warmed up to Bảo first because he's a genuinely kind and sweet protagonist who gradually discovered his passion for writing as the story progressed. I love watching awesome characters realize how awesome they are. Also, how could I not admire a guy who fights for true love and equality in a thoughtful and respectful way? As for Linh, most of the quotes that touched me came from her POV chapters, which says a lot about how well I understood her feelings and decisions - even her mistakes. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes: "I find refuge in art, escaping thoughts like this, to regain control when life throws another obstacle my way. When I work, magic happens; for a few hours at a time, the world just slips away." "...for people like us, sadness is part of our inspiration. Others might bottle up their sadness and pour it out on certain occasions, but we let it pour from us and into our medium. It’s the same for most emotions, and we do it so that we can make room for more." By the time I reached the end, I wanted to hug Bảo and Linh and tell them how proud I was of them. There's only one thing about this wonderful novel that I didn't love - the anticlimactic revelation of the family drama. I was expecting something more tragic that would explain years of passionate and uhealthy rivalry. Instead of making me understand, the truth just made me go, "That's it? This mess could have been sorted out years ago, but of course it wasn't because our star-crossed lovers needed more conflict in their romance." Despite that contrived family drama, I did enjoy learning more about Vietnamese culture, especially their cuisine and family dynamics. I was also impressed by the way the author tackled racism issues and showed the hardships Vietnamese immigrants endured. Those things added a unique flavor and serious layer to this novel that distinguishes it from other contemporary YA romance. To conclude, I have to warn you: DO NOT READ THIS NOVEL IF YOU ARE HUNGRY. The beautifully detailed descriptions of delectable Vietnamese dishes made me crave phở and bánh xèo. I have never even tried the latter, but thanks to Loan Le, I am now desperate to try it!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Helen Power

    A Pho Love Story is the epitome of sweet young adult romance. A modern-day, diverse Romeo and Juliet, but without the tragic demises of the titular characters (Hope a spoiler alert wasn't needed there!). Bao has a dry, sarcastic wit that comes out particularly when dealing with his parents and the rumor-mill surrounding the restaurants, and the narrative made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion.  One of the major draws for this book (for me, anyway) is the Vietnamese characters. I love wh A Pho Love Story is the epitome of sweet young adult romance. A modern-day, diverse Romeo and Juliet, but without the tragic demises of the titular characters (Hope a spoiler alert wasn't needed there!). Bao has a dry, sarcastic wit that comes out particularly when dealing with his parents and the rumor-mill surrounding the restaurants, and the narrative made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion.  One of the major draws for this book (for me, anyway) is the Vietnamese characters. I love when books like these share foreign-language expressions, little pieces of culture peppered throughout, and this book doesn’t disappoint.  It gives the novel and the world that Le has created an authentic and three-dimensional feel to it. Bao and Linh both come from similar backgrounds. Their parents are immigrants from Vietnam, and they own restaurants across the street from one another. Oh, and they’re arch-nemeses. At times their rivalry is humorous, but it's also serious, hinting at a mysterious history between the families that neither Bao nor Linh are privy to. All they know is that their families hate each other, and that they’re not to engage with each other. Ever.  There are similarities in Bao’s and Linh’s family dynamics--which serve to simultaneously bring the couple together and tear them apart. There’s quite a bit of an internal conflict, particularly for Linh, as her parents are more strict than Bao’s. Nevertheless, they both know that if their parents found out about their burgeoning relationship, they’d be torn apart faster than you can say “Pho Day”.  Bao and Linh have a sweet relationship, though I did find that it moved forward quickly in lurches. They were friends for a good chunk of the book, until suddenly they were boyfriend and girlfriend. There was no true in-between or build up. That said, both Bao and Linh are well-defined as characters, with their insecurities, personality quirks, and backstories. They complement each other quite nicely. Linh has always known what she wants to do with her life (become an artist) but her parents don’t approve. Bao has no idea what he wants to do, and all his parents want is for him to figure that out. As with any solid romance novel, the book isn’t just about them falling in love. It’s about them finding themselves along the way. Even the side characters are well-defined and dynamic.  The family lives of both Bao and Linh are critical to the storyline, and as mentioned before, there are similarities in their family-dynamics, but the parents are well-fleshed out enough to make their decisions and reactions to various events in the book believable and realistic. Even Linh and Bao’s best friends, Allie and Viet respectively, are intriguing characters with their own personality traits and humorous moments. My only complaint about this book is that it’s quite slow paced. Le spends a lot of time introducing the characters, providing backstory, without much plot early on in the book. This made the novel slower to get into, but once I was past the exposition, the novel picks up and becomes faster-paced, though I would never describe this book as a rapid page-turner. While this novel is a romance at heart, it also deals with some deeper issues, including racism in America. I can’t say more without spoiling anything, but it was dealt with quite beautifully, didn’t come across as preachy, and made me tear up a little bit.  That said, it was introduced only towards the end of the book, and I would have liked to have seen a little more of those themes throughout. I recommend this book to those looking for a slow-paced young adult romance, with dry humor, family rivalries, and just the right amount of Pho. *Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ebook to review* This review appeared first on https://powerlibrarian.wordpress.com/ Instagram | Blog | Website | Twitter My 2021 Reading Challenge

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