A Review of Loan Le’s “A Pho Love Story”
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If you are plugged into the bookish internet even just a little bit, you’ve probably seen people posting about Loan Le’s A Pho Love Story.
I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, and apparently at some point a past version of me put in a hold for a digital library copy. A later version of me got the Libby notification that my holds had come in — all at once, per usual.
Excited by this unexpected gift from past me, I downloaded A Pho Love Story right away. Once upon a time, I read a great deal of YA, but I’ve drifted more towards New Adult and adult fiction as I’ve gotten older.
This year’s effort to diversity my reading in all meanings of the word (genres, target audiences, author and character identities) has made it easier to talk myself back into genres I haven’t visited in a while.
Plus, who can say no to a book about a boy and girl whose parents own rival restaurants falling in love?
And that’s the premise we have here. Bao and Linh have grown up across the street from one another in their parents’ rival restaurants, not allowed to associate with one another. Star-crossed lovers at their finest, the two are drawn together by curiosity and a mutual project for the school newspaper. Naturally, romance ensues.
I expected this book to be a cute YA romance. What I didn’t expect was that the food descriptions would be so outrageously delicious that I’d have to immediately locate the nearest Vietnamese restaurant and get my hands on some banh mi. This isn’t actually a prominently featured food in the book, but one I first tried at a restaurant called Pho Lang Thang, so every mention of pho made me crave a tofu banh mi.
The author isn’t the only one with a knack for describing foods in a way that makes them sing to your taste buds. One of our narrators, Bao, has been trying to find something he’s good at, but so far, nothing’s stuck. It isn’t until he’s tasked with writing restaurant reviews for the school newspaper that he realizes his talent — and love — for writing.
Linh, on the other hand, has seemingly always known she’s an artist, scribbling determinedly with crayons and later with pencil and paint. She gets paired up with Bao by her best friend and newspaper editor, Ali, who may or may not be trying to give the two an excuse to spend more time together. He’ll write the reviews, and she’ll draw the accompanying pictures.
Aside from the adorable love story, the thing I liked best about this book was how the two main characters exploring their passions and talents is so integral to the plot.
As much as their project is an excuse for them to fall in love, it also highlights the thing they each love most and brings out their talents. There’s nothing quite like two people falling in love with the truest versions of each other, through their art.
They’re both supportive of one another’s dreams, even if their strict parents have concerns, and I really enjoyed that aspect compared with some teen dramas wherein the love story can become characters’ entire personalities and purposes.
Of course, they have to unravel their families secrets and uncover the reasons behind their mutual hatred, which makes for some interesting suspense and intrigue.
In all, this book was a ton of fun! It was an adorable, earnest love story, and both perspectives felt so real and distinct that I wasn’t even irritated about it being a love story with dual perspectives. And if you’ve been around this blog long enough, you know how hard that is to pull off in my estimation.
I also really enjoyed learning a bit about the restaurant industry, and the experiences of characters whose parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam. The whole neighborhood in which they live is vibrant and comes alive on the page with a real sense of community support and understanding.
I would recommend this book to fans of food, of art, and of a good star-crossed lovers romance.
But be warned as I was before you — this book will make you hungry! I couldn’t finish without getting my hands on some bubble tea and a banh mi. Which, really, is another bonus because now I’ve become aware of a great restaurant near my new house!
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2 thoughts on “One Delicious, Star-Crossed Love Story”
I really enjoy books that include discussion of food – I know what you mean about these books creating cravings! This book sounds like a fun read and I appreciated your great review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Thanks so much for reading!