February 10, 2021

Abbreviations #122: A Phở Love Story, Amelia Unabridged + The Wide Starlight

A Phở Love Story
is a charming YA contemporary debut from author Loan Le about two teens – Bao and Linh - from rival families that run Vietnamese restaurants across the street from one another. It’s been years since the pair interacted, but they reconnect when a restaurant emergency and a school paper assignment bring them together. In the face of their growing feelings for one another, they decide that they need to uncover the real reason for the enmity between their families. But this isn’t the only thing that threatens their newly budding relationship, as both Bao and Linh have to grapple with familial expectations for their futures. A modern-day tale with a pinch of Romeo and Juliet vibes, a dash of coming-of-age struggles, a sweet romance, and a generous amount of Asian-American (specifically Vietnamese-American) culture and family dynamics sprinkled in? A Phở Love Story has all of the above! I enjoyed it a lot and for two specific reasons: first, it was very compelling (though it leans towards ‘slice of life’ and internal character struggles versus a lot of action) and second, I related so much to both the main characters (especially when it came to their family dynamics and emotional honesty). It also was just the right mix of sweetness and angst when it came to all the relationship conflicts. (But I think Le specifically resolves the familial conflict in a way that matched the drama but also didn’t diminish the authenticity of the feelings harbored by both families.) All in all, this debut was a delightful read!

Pub Info: February 9, 2021 by Simon & Schuster BYR | Add it on Goodreads

It’s always a lovely experience to pick up a novel by a new-to-you author and discover that you click immediately with their writing style and that, friends, is exactly what happened to me with Amelia Unabridged. I knew from the first couple of lines that I was going to devour this story – and that’s exactly what happened! Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you a little bit about what it’s about (though it’ll be the bare minimum since I didn’t know much before going into it myself and that worked in my favor). This is a story about Amelia, who is wrestling with the void of grief and confusion left behind by the abrupt loss of someone she cares very deeply about, and how stories (and a specific book series) play a role in her journey towards making sense of her feelings & future. It’s a beautiful tale, complemented by Schumacher’s lovely, lyrical writing and the way she weaves melancholy and magic into the narrative. I appreciated reading yet another perspective on how one might handle grief and loss through the experiences Amelia had, though I’ll objectively admit that the whimsy, the air of destiny and the budding romantic connection that provides colorful background detail might not work for all readers as well as it did for me. I also really liked how Schumacher incorporated the magic and importance of stories and storytelling into her work. Stories can offer so many things to readers – an escape, comfort, a connection, perspective – and this theme is something I could get behind. Amelia Unabridged ended up being the good sort of reading surprise, and I look forward to whatever Schumacher releases next. (I also wanted to mention that, while this is a YA book, I strongly related to it as an adult reader and that’s probably because of my own personal life experiences.)

Pub Info: February 16, 2021 by Wednesday Books | Add it on Goodreads

I’ll fully admit that the mention of the Northern Lights (a natural phenomenon I’ve always found fascinating) was the reason that I wanted to read The Wide Starlight. Luckily, this YA debut ended up being a pretty good read! The novel centers around Eline Davis who, as a child growing up in Svalbard, saw her mother whistle for the Northern Lights and get swept away like Artic legend said. Years later, Eli sees a chance to reach out to her mother when the Northern Lights make an appearance over her current hometown of Cape Cod for a night. But the consequences of being reunited with her mother are too large and magical to be ignored for long. When her mom disappears again to set things right, all she leaves behind is a note asking Eli to find her again. With dangerous magical things shaking up the foundation of the world she knows, Eli travels back to Svalbard to put this mystery at rest once and for all. This novel is yet another tale where the main character grapples with grief, loss, abandonment, and anger with a fantastical aspect woven in, and it worked well overall. I liked that this felt like reading a modern fairytale with all the whimsy and lore woven in, as well as the incorporation of stories within the story itself. I also appreciated the unique setting (I’ve never read anything set in Svalbard, and it worked out perfectly that I read this when we had a winter storm), the complicated family dynamics, and the slower slice-of-life plot. Sadly, I didn’t connect to Eli or any other character on an emotional level which lessened my enjoyment of this read a touch. But I do think this is a solid YA debut, and I’m glad I read it!

Pub Info: February 16, 2021 by Razorbill | Add it on Goodreads


  1. I hadn't heard of the third book till now, I'll have to look into it. Amelia Unabridged is on my TBR, hope to get to it some day. I enjoyed A Pho Love Story also, you can read my review of it HERE. Thanks for sharing these reviews!


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