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Lunar New Year Love Story by Gene Luen Yang and LeUyen Pham


 

Xolo Score 4/5

 

Lunar New Year Love Story is a charming and heartfelt YA graphic novel that beautifully captures the complexities of family, grief, and romance against the backdrop of the Lunar New Year celebrations and Valentine’s Day. Set in San Francisco’s vibrant Chinatown, Vietnamese American Valentina Tran is Valentine’s Day’s number one fan. Every year, she intentionally crafts cards for her classmates as an homage to her late mother, who named her after Saint Valentine. But when a classmate mocks and rips up her card the same day her grandmother reveals a heartbreaking family secret, Valentina starts to doubt love’s existence. She guards her heart heavily to prevent future heartache.

 

*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***

 

Yang’s skillful storytelling is complemented by Pham’s breathtaking artwork, which breathes life into the bustling streets of Chinatown and the vibrant colors of Lunar New Year festivities. From the intricately detailed costumes to the magical elements that enhance each character’s emotions, every panel is a visual feast that immerses readers in the sights and sounds of the Lunar New Year celebration.


Amidst the festive atmosphere of the Lunar New Year, Valentina starts to date a fellow lion dancer and believes this could help break the family curse. Leslie is a charming young man with whom she shares an instant connection. However, the relationship is rocky at best, with Lesie unable to fully care for Valentina beyond a superficial level and Valentina struggling to understand her grief and pain. It’s no surprise when their relationship crumbles and Valentina starts to believe that love is not worth the heartache. However, after reconciling with her mother and seeing her father move forward with his life post-separation, although she has a lot of reservations, she doesn’t keep herself from opening up to the equally reserved Jae.


One of the novel’s greatest strengths lies in its richly developed characters, each with unique struggles and motivations. Valentina and her high school friends are of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds emblematic of the vibrant San Francisco community. Centering the book on the events and emotions of these two holidays contextualizes the dimensions of being a confused teenager and a child of immigrants trying to connect to their cultural roots. At one point, Valentina emphatically refuses to be shamed when a community leader accuses her of losing her Vietnamese roots. Valentine boldly advocates for herself and the belief that others’ perceptions or expectations do not define her authenticity.


Luna New Year Love Story is a dazzling romance graphic novel that will move you with its profoundly emotional artwork and story.

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*Disclaimer: A galley of the book was sent by the publisher

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