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“There are people out there who don’t have the energy to help people get better. They just accept the other person’s flaws, and sure, there’s less conflict to deal with, but it’s almost like living a lie. Then there are people who aren’t afraid to point out something’s wrong—even something as little as a typo. In the end, you’re making something better, and that’s more than other people are willing to do,” Linh. –A Pho Love Story
A Pho Love Story
by Loan Le
AR Test, Diverse Characters
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 of 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, owners of 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 and, despite their best efforts, sparks fly, leading them to wonder what took so long for them to connect. Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?
A Pho Love Story starts slowly as it introduces Linh and Bao. Each chapter is told in alternating first-person which helps the reader understand Linh’s and Bao’s conflicting emotions. While the story is similar to Romeo and Juliet because of the family conflict, the conclusion isn’t tragic. Most of the story revolves around Linh and Bao’s budding relationship. The story also delves into the struggles that immigrants face and touches on racism.
Many of the characters add Vietnamese words into their conversations and some readers may struggle with the dialect. Like the cover suggests, A Pho Love Story also revolves around Linh’s and Bao’s competing restaurants and there are a lot of references to food. While this adds depth, some readers will become bored by this aspect of the story.
A Pho Love Story is a cute romance that illustrates the importance of honesty and not hiding the truth behind silence. The predictable story will appeal to readers who want to add an easy-to-read romance to their reading list. If you’re looking for a grittier, action-packed Romeo and Juliet story, Crossing the Line by Simone Elkeles may be more to your liking. Also, similar to A Pho Love Story, Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen adds romance to parental pressure.
- Bao and Linh are sitting together. Bao’s “stomach gets jittery the moment we sit down together. . . Our ankles touch, and all of my body—I mean, all of it—wakes up.”
- Linh decides that she wants to date Bao. “A hand that circled my [Linh’s] waist slides up my arm. The other gently, so gently, remains on my hip. A fine shiver passes through me and I hold my breath, but my heart hiccups. He cups my cheek with a hand and his face inches forward. . . I press my lips against his more insistently. . . It’s surreal, us kissing here.”
- After they become boyfriend and girlfriend, Bao and Linh occasionally kiss, but the kisses are not described.
Drugs and Alcohol
- After hours, Linh’s father and friends “brought out Heineken.”
- Alcohol is served at a wedding.
- Profanity is used often. Profanity includes bullshit, damn, fuck, hell, pisses, and shit.
- The characters think about other people and silently call them names such as asshole and shithead.
- Jesus, God, and “oh my God” are occasionally used as an exclamation.
- An angry customer yells at Bao’s mother. “This place is shit. Shitty food. Shitty owners who can’t even speak fucking English.”
- Someone calls a person a douche.
- Linh’s mother thinks that a married couple will not last because, “They’d picked the wrong dates, didn’t consult the right calendar, or something like that.”
- Occasionally the characters thank God for something.