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Loan Le

Author of A Pho Love Story

3 Works 369 Members 7 Reviews

Works by Loan Le

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Representation: Asian characters
Trigger warnings: Vietnam War mentioned, racism, death of people in the past, war themes, refugee experiences, cultural appropriation
Score: Seven points out of ten.
Find this review on The StoryGraph.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed A Phở Love Story but I thought it could use improvements. I wanted to read this for a while and after I got this one alongside other books, I hoped it would be an outstanding read. When I finally picked it up and read A Phở Love Story, it wasn't outstanding, but not disappointing either. It was only okay. Also, I'm glad this novel is authentic and not like Noodle Pie. It starts with the first two characters I see, Bao Nguyễn and Linh Mai working at rival Vietnamese restaurants that despise each other, but it's unclear why. Over time, Bao and Linh start a relationship but for the first 200 pages, it is under closed doors as they only develop it away from their parents' eyes in classrooms and alleys. Those Vietnamese phrases didn't bother me, but I get that someone who doesn't understand the language would find it laborious to read A Phở Love Story at times.

A Phở Love Story's biggest flaws lie in the characters. Sure, Linh and Bao are Vietnamese American and I can relate to that, and I liked the deep cultural exploration, but the chemistry isn't there. I didn't feel like Bao and Linh connected to each other, at least for the initial 200 pages. They grew on me eventually as their relationship couldn't stay hidden forever, leading to a dramatic climax. I like the diversity, but most of the Asian narratives I've read feature Asian Americans, but I would like to see more Asian Australian and British Asian pieces of literature. I struggle to comprehend why Linh had to lie in front of her parents' faces either. Fortunately, the conclusion is a high note, and the side plots, including the one about racism, were intriguing.
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Law_Books600 | 6 other reviews | Jan 27, 2024 |
This was such a cute book! I fell absolutely in love with this Romeo-and-Juliet-like story and its delightful cast of characters. Much like a delicious bowl of pho, this book was heartwarming and cozy and generally perfect for helping me get through the struggle that was January.

Bao and Linh in particular were super-cute and relatable, and I really felt for them, which is something that doesn't happen to me all that often anymore when I read YA contemporary. I guess that's a sign I'm getting old... Bao's struggle to find his purpose and Linh's conflict between her passion for art and her parents' expectations were 100% realistic and something I could really sympathise about. The romance was also adorable, and I just could not get enough of these two!

The secondary characters were also really well developed, and I enjoyed seeing all the various relationships developing and changing. This is really a book about family and friendship and community as well as romance, and I loved seeing that come through so naturally in the secondary characters as well.

It was extremely refreshing to read about Vietnamese-American characters, something which I hadn't done before, and I feel like this allowed me to get a glimpse of such a rich culture. Bao's and Linh's families come from a traumatic past, which heavily influences their choices, but always remains in the background, never taking over. I particularly loved the vivid and rich descriptions of various Vietnamese foods, and it made me curious to try more of them. The downside: I was hungry for most of this book!

One thing I would have liked to be done differently is the way that Vietnamese language is used throughout the book. There are many passages where whole sentences and exchanges are conducted in Vietnamese, which in itself is a wonderful thing, but often there was no translation or summary of what was said to accompany that. Now, I could sometimes guess what was said or make it out from the context, but there were a few instances where I was left completely clueless as to what had just been said, and that took something away from the experience for me.

Overall, this is a very pleasant, lighthearted ownvoices read with lovable characters. Fair warning: do not consume on an empty stomach, as it will cause unlimited cravings for delicious Vietnamese foods, going well beyond the better-known pho.


I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.
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bookforthought | 6 other reviews | Nov 7, 2023 |
I really enjoyed this book, especially since I listened to the audiobook as I read along with the ARC. Definitely a modern day R&J with a twist at the end. Listening to the audiobook helped with the pronunciation of all the Vietnamese vocabulary. Thankfully the author would include context clues after to help the reader understand and follow along with the story. The line that stood out the most to me was "Where does the line between what I want and what our parents want end?" I know that this will resonate with all readers. How do you please your parents while ensuring that you follow your own path.… (more)
 
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Z_Brarian | 6 other reviews | Dec 12, 2022 |
this really picked up for me after the first 2/3 or so. before that it was ok, nothing special (except for the representation, which i loved). but once the story became about more than just a restaurant rivalry, it was so much more interesting to me. it didn't end with that being as big or dramatic as i expected, but it at least made it more dimensional for me. still, it is great to have this robust (not just the characters and their history, but a lot of the language and culture) representation in a book, so for that it's worth it to read.… (more)
 
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overlycriticalelisa | 6 other reviews | Dec 1, 2022 |

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