ARC Review: A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

Posted February 7, 2021 by Lisa Mandina in Review / 12 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Review:  A Pho Love Story by Loan LeA Pho Love Story by Loan Le
Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on February 9, 2021
Genres: YA Contemporary Romance
Pages: 416
Source: the publisher
Format: ARC
My Rating: four-half-stars
Buy on AmazonBuy on Barnes & Noble


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’ fifthfavorite 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?

When Dimple Met Rishi meets Ugly Delicious in this funny, smart romantic comedy, in which two Vietnamese-American teens fall in love and must navigate their newfound relationship amid their families’ age-old feud about their competing, neighboring restaurants.

My Review:

I had been excited about this book since I first heard about it last fall I think. There’s just something about a book set in a restaurant type of family, or based around food that I seem to find irresistible. And this book had all that I was looking for.

I loved the characters, and their families had so much back story that I enjoyed how it unfolded in the book.

Bao was a very interesting character. While he had the parents and the community that expected him to be exceptional and do much more than he did, he was like a normal teenage boy that you might expect. He was unsure what he wanted to do, and hadn’t quite found his groove yet. Until something happened in his journalism elective he’d had to take when the class he really wanted wasn’t available. And it was something to do with that moment that kind of brought him closer into a friendship with Linh.

Linh also had the family that expected more from her. But she knew what she wanted to do, she wanted to be an artist. She was an artist. Unfortunately her family was afraid that she would not be able to live a good life with that type of career. That she’d have to struggle. And since they had left their home to be safe and struggled to give her the life where she could at least have that as a hobby, they felt she should take on a future path like her older sister had, one that would give her a successful career with a good salary and security.

And then there was the huge feud between the two families, that we learn had more to do with past history than just competing because of being restaurants located close together with similar menus.

My one complaint is something that pretty much shows my sheltered upbringing and life, but I wish that there had been a bit more translation of some of the phrases that were in Vietnamese. Sometimes there were, or you could get what was meant by the following sentences or paragraph. And sometimes there were not. I would have loved a little extra glossary at the end with some of the phrases and their meanings.

Something else I would have loved, and may end up making all on my own, is a list of all the foods mentioned with a description of them as well. While I’m extremely picky about things like veggies in my food, some of the different dishes sounded so good I know I want to try them. I may take the time to go back through and make a list to look up those dishes and then find a restaurant in my town where I can try them!

Honestly the only reason I’ve marked this down to a 4.5 stars on my blog instead of the 5 stars I will give it everywhere else is that it was a bit long. Not way too long, but maybe a bit longer than necessary. Although I can’t think of what I would take out, or what parts could be cut. Loved this book, and I’ll be buying it for my school library students to read.

About the Author:

Loan Le is the youngest child of two Vietnamese immigrants hailing from Nha Trang. She holds an MFA degree in fiction from Fairfield University, also her undergraduate alma mater. A Pushcart Prize–nominated writer, her short stories have appeared in CRAFT Literary, Mud Season Review, and Angel City Review. Loan is an editor at Simon and Schuster’s Atria Books imprint and lives in Manhattan. A Pho Love Story is her first novel. Visit her website at and find her on Twitter @loanloan.

Social media:



Please follow and like us:
Tweet 0
Pin Share20


12 responses to “ARC Review: A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

    • Lisa Mandina

      I need to try some. I have the book sitting on my desk so I can go through and make a list of all the foods they described! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  1. I found I liked Linh, but I adored Bao. I was so excited to see him finding some passion for something. Maybe the book was a bit long or maybe it was more of a pacing issue. Not sure, but something was a little off for me. I still enjoyed the book overall.

    • Lisa Mandina

      Yes, I did adore Bao too! Yeah, maybe it was a pacing versus length, but other than that it was good. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Danielle Hammelef

    I love eating Vietnamese food as well as Japanese and Taiwanese dishes. I enjoy reading books like this one in which restaurants are the setting (although it usually makes me hungry LOL) and this book is high on my want-to-read list already. I’m so glad you loved it and only had a minor issue with its length.

    • Lisa Mandina

      I haven’t had much besides Chinese, and once or twice Japanese. I need to try so many different types of food!

Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.