A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some background about the Vietnamese and Chinese New Year celebrations, traditions, and cultural histories. Some information about what makes the Lion Dance significant and unique.
Positive messages of forgiveness and compassion, friends and family, and the value of believing in love. Forgive your friends and family for mistakes. Everyone goes through hard times. Believe in love and being able to love.
Positive Role Models
Valentina is a kind teenager wanting to believe that her family's love curse won't affect her. She does her best bouncing back from disappointment, rejection, and confusion. She represents a strong Asian American lead who won't easily be taken advantage of or be taken for granted. She sticks to her beliefs and fights off the Valentine spirit who wants her to give up on love.
The cast is primarily Asian American, with a Vietnamese American lead, Korean American and Chinese American love interests, and Asian American supporting characters. One side couple is queer.
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Violence & Scariness
Some characters see ghosts or spirit versions of family members or saints, like St. Valentine, and these depictions are appropriately ghostly, cryptic, and ghoulish, sometimes appearing as skeletons, with hollowed out eyes, and with wispy and haunting representations. One saint mentions how he was beaten and beheaded during his real lifetime. A man gets upset and pushes a teenage girl. A teenage boy pushes the man into a large cake. A man playfully punches two teenage boys in their groins. A teenage girl causes the spirit face of a dead spirit to crack into pieces.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The whole story is about love and whether or not the main character will suffer from never being able to fully be in love with someone. Teenage girls date many different boys, go on dates with different boys, and talk about dating boys. A few scenes with romantic kissing.
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Language includes "butt" and "dork."
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Products & Purchases
References to Facebook.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One scene shows a father passed out from drinking too much beer. Another scene shows older women drinking wine.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Gene Luen Yang's Lunar New Year Love Story, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is a young adult graphic novel romance about Valentina, a Vietnamese American teenager caught up in a love triangle. Her family has a history of not being successful in the realm of romantic love, as her father's relationship with her mother didn't work out and neither did her grandmother's relationship with her grandfather. Valentina so desperately wants to believe in true love, but luck just might not be with her. Teenage girls often talk about love, boys, dating, and relationships. Teenage boys argue over girls and compete for girls' affections. A few scenes show romantic kissing. Some characters see ghostly spirits who are representations of either dead family members or patron saints, like St. Valentine. These depictions are hauntingly drawn, with hollowed out eyes and mouths and sometimes appear as skeletons. A teenage girl causes a spirit's face to crack into pieces. A man pushes a teenage girl and a teenage boy pushes the man into a large cake. A father is shown passed out from too many beers. Some older women drink wine. Language includes "butt" and "dork."
Is It Any Good?
In this light-hearted, charming romance graphic novel for young adult readers love wins over pessimism and bitterness. In Lunar New Year Love Story, Valentina's both likable and believable, bringing a realistic, universal representation of teenage longing for a kind of love that's genuine and real. Valentina's family backstory is unique and interesting: Her parents and grandparents have not succeeded in their love stories and Valentina has had visions of St. Valentine's spirit consistently throughout her life.
The boys who make up the love triangle with Val are believable in their differences, with Leslie's charm contrasted to Jae's softness a set up for understandable drama. Some readers may be disappointed that the happy ending is never all that in doubt, but when the drama clears, the conclusion manages to satisfy and Val is able to figure out exactly what she wants out of love. Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) sets this hopeful love story in Oakland, California's diverse Asian American community, which LeUyen Pham (Princess in Black series) brings to life in colorful spreads that capture Lunar New Year lion dances, supernatural beings, and characters' interactions in expressive, engaging art. This isn't an explosive read, but what's here is light, sweet, and full of comfortable charm.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Graphic Novels and Memoirs
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
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