Hello fellow bookworms! I’m back again with another book review.
Last week I finished reading A Pho Love Story by Loan Le, and I absolutely loved this book. It’s a modern, diverse retelling of Romeo and Juliet, except it’s much more heartfelt and uplifting than the original tragedy.
A Pho Love Story
Release Date: February 2021
Genre: YA contemporary
Representation: Vietnamese main characters and families
If Bảo Nguyễn 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’ phở 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 Nguyễns have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring phở restaurants. Bảo 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. A chance encounter brings Linh and Bảo 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 Bảo find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I was highly anticipating this book once I learned of its existence. As I mentioned in my June Wrap Up and July TBR, I’ve been patiently waiting for the paperback edition of this book to be released, or for it to show up on my library’s shelves. Lucky for me, it finally showed up on my local library’s shelves! I think this book definitely lived up to my expectations, and I am so glad that I finally picked it up.
At first, the novel drags a bit as we are introduced to the characters, their families, and their world. It took a couple of chapters for me to be fully invested and interested in the story, as the action in the novel does not really pick up until then. Yet at the same time, I appreciate how Le introduced the story and the characters, as by the time some action started happening in the book, I felt truly immersed in the world and the story.
I adored Le’s writing style, especially when she wrote about food and art. It was perfectly descriptive, not too overboard that you wanted to move on with the story already, but just enough to where you could imagine exactly what the characters were seeing. Reading about the food actually made me crave a bowl of pho!
The way Le wrote about growing up in an Asian, family-focused household was wonderful as well. Through her words, you can tell she has a deep love and appreciation for Vietnamese culture, yet recognizes the flaws in the culture as well. I found both sets of parents in the novel to be similar to my Filipino parents, making me feel represented in that sense. I strongly related to Linh – the desire to do something you believe your parents won’t approve of, but not wanting to hurt them and take advantage of the sacrifices they have made for you. Despite their flawed mindsets, I loved reading about both sets of parents in the novel, and it reminded me to be more appreciative of my own parents.
Although the title suggests that this book is full blown romance, it is very much so a story about family and culture. The romance between Linh and Bao is there (and it is super cute), but it is not the main focus of the novel. Rather, their romance is a catalyst for the events and self discovery that occurs in the book. I appreciate this as even though I love romance, stories that focus on other aspects of life and how a romance may affect that are the stories on my favorites list. I also love how Linh and Bao pushed each other to be better people and follow their dreams, rather than becoming entirely focused on each other.
In writing this review, I discovered that Loan Le is actually in the process of writing a companion novel to A Pho Love Story, focused on Bao’s best friend and Linh’s sister. I seriously cannot wait to get my hands on it!
Overall, I loved this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a family centric, #OwnVoices story that has a great romance.
Have you read A Pho Love Story yet, or are you planning to? What are your thoughts on retellings with a modern and more diverse twist? I personally love them!
See you next time!
All the love,