Hiya! Today I’ll be reviewing ‘A Pho Love Story’ by Loan Le. It’s actually my first ever eARC/ARC, and I am so happy I was approved to read this novel! Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Publishers for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. (Please note that the synopsis provided is from goodreads.) Without further ado, here is the review!
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?
First let’s talk about the plot! The original premise sounded very promising, and the plot was executed pretty well. The readers were able to get lovely descriptions of Phở and other delicious Vietnamese foods, which made me, admittedly, very hungry. Unfortunately, I felt as though we didn’t get much time in the restaurants. It would have been so cool to see all the steps it takes to establish a restaurant.
The characters were a delight! Bao was snarky and always made me laugh. He was honestly just a really kind and caring character towards everyone really. I loved how the idea of not knowing what he wanted to do in the future was executed in the novel. Uncertainty about the future is a very real that people go through, so it was definitely cool to see! Linh on the other hand knew she wanted to be an artist. It’s wonderful to see young people pursuing the arts, and I loved how Loan Le incorporated Linh’s family into her art. Linh’s inspiration for creating art was very beautiful and I found myself liking her character. However, she wasn’t as memorable as I thought she’d be. Moreover, Linh and Bao had a very healthy relationship. They were so cute together, and made a fantastic team! There was some miscommunication, but it was worked out throughout the novel!
Since the version I read of A Pho Love Story was an ARC, there won’t be any quotes in my review. Instead, take this cute cat!
The side characters were unique as well. I loved how the cast was almost all Vietnamese. It was very refreshing to see! Linh’s friend Ally, and Bao’s friend Viet, where great supporting characters. They were both helpful, and funny. I only wish the author went more in depth into the lives of the side characters. I also absolutely adored the family dynamic. The tension between the two families felt raw and realistic. Another character I enjoyed reading about is Chef Le and his family’s hilarious cameos. It was nice to see a very wholesome relationship between the Mai sisters. Evie and Linh have a lovely sibling dynamic that I wish was explored more in the book. A Pho Love Story is gorgeously done in terms of creating a sense of community within families, and I fell in love with that. Having a loving family is something very special, so I am very happy it was explored vividly throughout the novel.
The dialogue between Linh, Bao, and their friends felt pretty average, nothing ground-breaking was said. It was the dialogue between the main characters and their parents that really intrigued me. I haven’t read many YA novels where the parents and children had intricate relationships. Furthermore, it was very interesting to see Vietnamese spoken throughout the book. I love learning about different languages and cultures, so this only added to the enjoyment of the novel!
I unfortunately struggled with the writing style. The point of view switches from Bao to Linh, and vice versa every 10-15 pages or so. I found myself struggling with trying to understand if the we were in Bao’s head, or in Linh’s. At other times, the story felt repetitive and boring. In my opinion, A Pho Love Story didn’t need to be over 400 pages long. If it was slightly shorter, I’m sure I would have loved it even more.
As mentioned previously, the book seemed to drag on at times and felt a bit repetitive. That did affect the overall enjoyment level a lot. Nevertheless, it was still an incredibly refreshing read that I totally recommend!
Age Rating: 13 and up
TW: Stories of war and death
Final Rating: 7/10 or 3.75 stars
So, will you read A Pho Love Story? Have a great day!