Book Review: A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

*I was given an arc of A Pho Love Story in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Simon & Schuster and Loan Le*

CW: Racism, xenophobia, death and war 

Synopsis:

A Pho Love Story is a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, but a lot less violent. The story follows Bao and Linh whose parents own rival restaurants. Having promised to never speak to each other for the sake of their parents, a chance encounter brings them together. 

Hiding their budding relationship from their families and having other secrets of their own, Bao and Linh try to navigate new territory without bringing further fueding and heartbreak to their families. 

Review:

First things first the food. This book made me so hungry and I now really want to try Vietnamese cuisine. I’m a big sucker for romances that centre around food and this one did not disappoint. 

When reading the synopsis I had no idea that Bao and Linh were in high school, I thought they were going to be older. This wasn’t a bad thing of course but it didn’t match up to what I thought the book was going to be like. 

I also didn’t realise that this was going to be based on Romeo and Juliet, looking back at the synopsis now it’s extremely clear. So basically this was a nice surprise. I’ve read a few retellings of Romeo and Juliet and this is definitely one of my favourites. It’s a nice and quick read. No violence and a big case of puppy love made A Pho Love Story interesting. 

I liked that even though the family are technically warring with each other there is never much real conflict, especially not the physical kind. 

The biggest area of conflict in this story is when Bao’s family is dealing with a racist customer. Nothing said is too explicit however the dealing with this issue was handled very well and showed why community is so important. 

Although this is quite a fast read the pacing in the first half was pretty slow. You don’t really get to know the main characters properly until the second part of the book. However, this does make sense in terms of the story. Bao had no idea what he wanted to do with his life and Linh was keeping her love for art a secret from her family. It’s only after they form a relationship that they realise who they are. 

Speaking of our main characters, I liked the relationship between them. It was very sweet and a good representation of a teen relationship. They both have interesting attributes and quirks, but sometimes their personalities were outshone by the secondary characters. I would have loved more of their best friends Ali and Viet as they both had interesting qualities.

Over the past year, I have come to enjoy alternative perspectives a lot more and even though I did also like it here, it did confuse me at times. I would often lose track of whose chapter I was on as both Bao and Linh read the same. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the writing, just that there was no real difference in voice for either character. 

The ongoing mystery of why the families hate each other was fun to see unfold and I liked how every time they thought they were getting somewhere with it another twist would turn up. I won’t mention why they hate each other here, however, although it was somewhat of an interesting reason, it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was going to be. 

I loved all of the parts that included food and getting an insight into the Vietnamese culture, something of which I don’t know very much about. Hearing the stories of how Bao and Linh’s parents fled Vietnam was very heart touching and emotional and provided some of the best parts of this book. 

Overall A Pho Love Story was a fun romance based on the forbidden love trope. Although it touches on some very important issues this book is for the most part light-hearted and an all-around entertaining read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
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