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Book Review: A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

Publisher’s description

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?

Amanda’s thoughts

First thing first: figure out where you will order some Vietnamese food from before you even start reading. We are not much on eating out/takeout, in general, and have only had takeout maybe 4 times this whole pandemic, but after reading this, I’m going to need us to get some phở.

Linh Mai and Bảo Nguyễn are in the same grade at the same school and spend most of their time across the street from each other at their respective families’ restaurants, but haven’t spoken since they were children. If your families are lifelong enemies, there’s not much room for friendship. But when Bảo finds an upset Linh hiding out in the alley one day, everything changes. They start to hang out, a little, tentatively. They begin working on a project together for the school newspaper, reviewing area restaurants. And, to the surprise of no one, they begin to fall for each other. Sneaking around and lying isn’t great for a relationship, but how can they tell their families they’re together? As they begin to uncover some of the reasons for the rancor between the families, the odds of them working out grow even slimmer.

At the core, this is a romance, but there is so much depth to both of their individual stories. Both lead busy lives deeply enmeshed with their parents’ lives and expectations. Both are trying to figure out what they want to do beyond high school. For Linh, it’s a question of how she could possibly pursue art, her passion, while knowing her parents want her to be an engineer, a nice stable career path with plenty of security. For Bảo it’s working to figure out what he wants to do, period. They juggle work, school, and the many expectations from their parents while also maintaining friendships, pursuing goals, and figuring out if being together is worth the drama.

With a heavy focus on families, history, expectations, and secrets, this love story will leave readers satisfied. Except for the actual hunger part—readers will be left literally hungry. I’m not kidding that you should figure out where to order food BEFORE you start reading.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781534441934
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 02/09/2021
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years

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