YA rom-com book depicts rival love story


Fair Use via Simon & Schuster Books For young Readers

Loan Le writes a heartwarming love story in this popular book.

In an epic “Romeo and Juliet”-style romance, “A Phở Love Story” by Loan Le is a fun, romantic comedy novel about two Vietnamese-American teenagers from rival families. The Nguyens own a Vietnamese restaurant just across the street from the Mais. Both families are constantly trying to one-up each other and draw away the other’s customers to their own establishments. But Bao Nguyen and Linh Mai want nothing to do with their family drama and just aspire to follow their own dreams. While Bao is uncertain about what he aims to do in his future, he’s more than willing to try to find a dream to chase. When he meets Linh, an excelling art student, his new dream becomes her. Le’s novel builds up perfectly flawed characters that are easy for readers to connect with and constructs beautiful family relationships.

Le makes it clear to the reader that while Bao and Linh are loveable protagonists, they are not without their faults. When the two first meet, they despise each other because of what they’ve heard from their parents about each other. Over the course of the book, the stereotypes and misconceptions that the two characters have about one another slowly break down and allow for their true feelings to come to light. Le also creates such intricate characters that the reader feels like they could pop out of the pages at any moment, whether it’s the pair’s likes and dislikes or what they think about each other or how they view their relationships with their families. Le’s ability to construct complex characters in her novel creates a variety of pathways and ways to connect the readers to the people they’re reading about. 

Aside from being an entertaining teenage romance, “A Phở Love Story” also explores the struggles of being an immigrant. Both Linh and Bao’s families moved to America from Vietnam while they were young adults and deal with similar struggles that differentiate in interesting ways. Bao and Linh both love their families very much, and both feel immense pressure to succeed and do impressive things with their lives. Bao receives harsh criticism from his parents, primarily his mother, for not quite knowing what to do with his life yet, and in some ways that pressure makes it even more difficult for him to settle on a decision. Although Linh, on the other hand, loves art with a passion, but that profession is not accepted by her family. Throughout the novel, Linh has many arguments with her family about why they should let her pursue art, a field not typically endorsed by immigrant parents. 

Despite the conflicts, “A Phở Love Story” is an enthralling, heart-warming story about two teenagers persevering through their differences and finding love. Realistic obstacles are presented from both their professional and personal lives, which both protagonists work together to overcome. Loan Le’s talent of building up likable and relatable characters makes “A Phở Love Story” endearing and a fun read for all.