Book Reviews

Review: A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

Excuse me, but this cover is the cutest! I have been looking forward to Le’s debut novel and then the cover was revealed and I was sold. Talk about rivals to romance, competing family restaurants, and family secrets. COUNT ME IN! Keep reading this book review to find out what I loved the most!


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?


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

A Pho Love Story is a delightful dual POV story about family, being brave, and following our dreams. The food cravings while reading this were so bad. Please eat this with some delicious Vietnamese food because if you don’t, you’ll just be googling recipes the whole time. An element I appreciated was how seamlessly Le weaves in the culture, family habits, and traditions in this YA contemporary. It’s infused from the very beginning in the ways Linh’s parents want her to find stability. Or the ways in which their community, and gossips, functions.

Touching upon fleeing from Vietnam, Le delivers a story of family secrets. Of the burdens of not telling the truth. How difficult it is to pursue our dreams in the face of challenges and scorn. How hard it is to be in the heat of the moment and your dreams seem to be curling up besides you. Not knowing how much more smoke they can take, how precarious your paper house might be. A Pho Love Story examines the decisions we take. Parallel lives in tandem, stretched silences, and mirrored rooms.

A Pho Love Story also discuses racism, the ways that customers interact with their restaurant. It’s a multi-faceted debut that discuses a myriad of topics, while also being centered on the characters of Linh and Bao. I was rooting for them from day one. Especially as they navigate the line between their dreams and their parent’s expectations. Do we end up living in their shadows and hollow spaces? It’s full of lingering glances, silences that stretch decades, and old hurts that never seem to heal.

Find A Pho Love Story on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


Do you have other favorite Asian YA Contemporary stories?

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