Review of Lunar New Year Love Story

Lunar New Year Love Story Lunar New Year Love Story
by Gene Luen Yang; illus. by LeUyen Pham
Middle School, High School    First Second    352 pp.
1/24    9781626728103    $25.99
Paper ed.  9781250908261    $17.99

In this unique and engaging graphic novel, Vietnamese American high schooler Valentina Tran has always loved giving handmade cards to her widower father and classmates on her namesake holiday. She is assisted by her “best imaginary friend,” Saint V (for Valentine), initially shown in the illustrations as a classic winged baby surrounded by cartoon hearts. This year her spirits are crushed when her dad storms off, and a classmate, Jae, trashes her card. Worse, Grandma reveals that Valentina’s father lied about her mother’s supposed death and, later, that their entire family is romantically cursed. Valentina despairs until she meets two cute lion dancers at a Tết (Lunar New Year) celebration and dates one of them (who happens to be Jae’s cousin). Is the relationship real? Or will Valentina give her heart to Saint Valentine to be safe from the pain of love? Yang (Dragon Hoops, rev. 5/20) and Pham (Friends Forever, rev. 9/21) do a wonderful job of weaving fractured families and romantic yearning with fantasy elements that show emotional states and growth as well as plenty of humor throughout. Pham’s digital illustrations adeptly mix realistic scenes with celestial animals and ghosts. Her gorgeous, kinetic depictions of Chinese and Korean lion dancers are joyful, and the section in which Valentina first learns about Tết and meets her love interest is especially vibrant.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee is a young adult librarian for the New York Public Library.

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