Rating: 4 STARS
Genre: Contemporary YA
How I got this book: Bought
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?
TW: Racism, hate crimes, immigration trauma, loss/grief, PTSD
This book was our sixth Turn The Page book club selection.
The story centres around two rival Vietnamese-American families who run opposing restaurants across the street from each other, with two teens who, while attending the same school, can't be friends because of a family feud that no one knows anything about or what started it.
What I really loved about this book was how the author combined a really sweet teen love story with a harrowing tale of grief, loss and trauma, while also highlighting the effects of racism in the community and the struggles of being forced to leave your home and make a new home in a strange country that isn't always welcoming.
Loan Le does a fantastic job of making the reader really feel for these characters and what they've been through, and are still dealing with, while also delivering a fun story full of hope for the future.
The characters were definitely my favourite part of the book because they're so relatable and realistic.
Bao is our hero, he's funny, charming and completely lost. He isn't sure what he should do with his life; he has no drive and feels like a bit of a letdown at school, with his friends, and at home.
Linh is a hard-working, over-achiever with a passion and talent for art, something her parents don't understand or approve of. She's trying to pursue her passion in secret while sparing every moment to help her parents as they struggle to compete with the restaurant across the street and the hurtful rumours being spread about them.
Linh and Bao are enemies, but they don't know why. Their shared past is full of secrets and pain that Linh and Bao struggle to uncover after unexpectedly spending time together. But as the secrets and pressure mount, things crumble around them.
Linh and Bao both struggle with being true to themselves, and it was a great journey to see their flaws on full display and to watch as they grew and learned to trust themselves, and each other, as the story progressed.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Pho Love Story, and while it was more character-driven than plot-driven, there was plenty to keep the pace moving; from the struggles faced by just Linh and Bao to their parent's struggles and those of the community.
The author made this book feel really culturally vibrant, and with the vast array of foods, the language and the setting, the locations, characters and smells came to life.
I also loved the mix of Vietnamese and English when reading this and, as an English-only speaker, I found it really easy to understand the gist of what was being said. It didn't detract at all from the story, only made it more immersive.
I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a sweet but emotional YA rom-com full of realistic, relatable characters and incredible food!
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About Kayleigh (She/Her)
Book addict, film mad, music lover, business owner, writer and mum (not necessarily in that order), living in the UK.
About Sophie (She/Her)
Sophie loves books (obviously). She has a passion for photography and spotting wildlife, and is interested in anything made with passion and creativity.
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5 Stars - AMAZING!!
4.5 Stars - Almost perfect!
4 Stars - I really loved it
3.5 Stars - I liked it alot
3 Stars - I liked it
(I don't typically review books that I rate below 3 stars)
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