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A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?

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Simon Schuster Logo | Erica Robbin

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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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this one. I’d recommend this one to a more younger audience, perhaps junior high or high school age, a younger crowd would probably enjoy it more than I did.

The Story
Loved the premise, the portrayal of family characteristics and potential dilemma. Deeper sentiments included career aspirations, family expectations. Self-doubt was a bit more belabored around the same things, a bit drawn out, more than I thought I would have enjoyed at the present time, but overall, really enjoyed the unveiling of what was going to happen based on what I read in the book description.

I would have liked more tension, more interpersonal conflict. Like a cafeteria scene of someone commenting on stinky fish sauce or some type of lived experience to justify their mention in passing.

The Writing
Enjoyed the changing POVs, felt it added a bit more dimension, angle to the story, though it also made the story drag out a bit at the same time because it felt like each character had to have their same length of say in the matter.

Characters
I wasn’t feeling the relationship. It teetered between puppy love and deeper longing but the characters felt flat to me and lacked personality, distinguishing characteristics, I couldn’t really tell them apart. Would have enjoyed a little more personality to the characters as a lived experience, more warmth and charm to the characters and their situation rather than almost being told how to feel by explanation rather than a lived reading experience.

Some of it was more explanation which was okay at times, but I would have liked rather that the characters just live it. For example, the lines “Nothing is more efficient at waking you from a dead sleep—while also drawing out an involuntary, undignified high-pitched scream—than a Vietnamese mother bursting through the door without warning.” I was thinking a nice touch would just have the characters portrayed in action and let the readers see for themselves to get a more settled glimpse into what was being conveyed rather than be told. Like why not make the mother screech in the most abrupt way, even exaggerated to show instead of tell and contrast it with a friend who doesn’t share that same sentiment.

Descriptions
The food description was really fun, but then it became a little overkill, and I love food description. Pho is one of my favorites, could eat it every day, all day. I suppose it seemed like too much description because it was coming from young adults who describe the food like a t.v. show food critic, but not really the treasured memories, personal connections, or emotional experience, so they became quite boring and monotonous. I just don’t know any kids, younger adults as they are portrayed, that are that aware and descriptive with everything they eat, whether talking about it to themselves, savoring every bite, or talking to the other people dining with them in such a detailed way, to that length with every course.

Pacing
Pacing was the major issue for me. Found it to be quite slow. Didn’t always hold my attention, some scenes were a bit tedious, but I realized after reading a bit that I perhaps was not exactly the target demographic and that may have influenced my feelings toward lack of progression. Felt like it was 100 pages too long. A reading exercise reaching for completeness. I started to skim read by chapter 14, realizing that not much progress was being made, maybe only about 3-4 chapters at a time, finally something “happened.” I could have skipped through a few pages without learning much new. Kind of centered so tight around a concept that a little more side story reveal with again, more real time interpersonal conflict, would have helped to freshen it up for me.

The cell phone text portrayal/print format could have been formatted a little better.

Absolutely loved the language integration.

Sweet story but just less of my type of book, less of what I was looking for when I picked it up.

View all my reviews

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