Publication Year: 2021
Page Count: 416
Rating: 3.5 stars
Synopsis (From GoodReads):
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 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.
I’ve heard really mixed reviews about this book, which follows two Vietnamese-American teenagers whose parents own competing restaurants. While it wasn’t a new all time favorite of mine, I still really liked many aspects of this book!
This book follows Linh and Bao, who have been raised knowing their families hate each other. They have never interacted with one another except once when they were children. Even though they go to the same school, they have always made sure to stay clear of each other, in case word somehow gets back to their parents. However, after Bao sees Linh crying outside her families restaurant, the two realize their families are hiding secrets, and realize maybe they aren’t so different from one another.
This is told in dual perspective, which I think had the potential to work really well. It was super cool to see both Linh and Bao’s side of the story, because it gave the reader a better grasp of what was going on. We got to see both family’s perspectives, which I think was necessary for this book to work. Along with that, I liked that the author gave both Linh and Bao hobbies and specific passions. Linh is an artist and loves to paint, while Bao wants to be a writer. It was nice to have each character care about something outside each other, and how they are planning to navigate their futures outside of high school.
However, I think both characters had a very similar voice. Because I was listening to the audiobook, I was able to keep track of who was saying what in the moment, but if I look back to remember certain scenes, I have a hard time recalling whose perspective it was from.
As for the plot, this is definitely a Romeo and Juliet retelling, although I am not sure if it was marketed as one. I liked the romance in this a lot! It was definitely on the slower side, which is good because both Linh and Bao were raised to hate one another, so the transition from enemies to lovers felt gradual to me. However, the plot just kind of seemed to drag. Looking back, I can think of a few scenes that definitely could have been cut, or at least shortened to try to move the plot along. I felt like there were many instances where Bao and Linh were shown trying to hide their relationship from their parents, but the author clearly got the point across and didn’t need to emphasize it so much. I also feel like the author was trying to cover a lot things in one novel, such as the romance, the family feud, high school drama, racism, the history of Vietnamese immigrants, messy family dynamics, and Linh and Bao’s passions. It was just a lot, and I feel like some of it could have been cut or put into the author’s next book.
The place this book really got to shine was with the Vietnamese culture! Like I mentioned, the author tells stories about the Vietnamese refugees who fled after the fall of Saigon. She didn’t sugar coat anything, and explained how dangerous and heart breaking fleeing was, with some people not making it out alive, and others leaving behind their entire family. Along with that, the author describes various Vietnamese dishes so vividly, it definitely made me wish I was eating them as well! I think having this story set in a restaurant was a great idea, because it was the perfect opportunity to dive into Vietnamese cuisine, and the culture behind it.
Along with that, as someone who has worked in a restaurant for 7 years, I loved the way the author described it. She does a great job at encompassing the panic of being overwhelmed on a busy night, dealing with rude customers, and coping with being short staffed. It all just felt really relatable and I enjoyed reading about this aspect!
All in all, I thought this book was very cute and fun, even if it was a little bit long. I know the author has a companion novel coming out next year following Linh’s sister, and I will probably be picking that up as well.
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Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!