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

Lunar New Year Love Story

written by Gene Luen Yang
art by LeUyen Pham

First Second, 2024. 350 pages.
Review written March 27, 2024, from a library book.
Starred Review

This graphic novel is sweet and wonderful. Last night, I intended to just dip into it for a few minutes — and came up for air about an hour later, when I’d finished it.

It’s the story of Valentina, a junior in high school. She loved Valentine’s Day when she was a kid and made elaborate valentines with the spirit only she can see, Saint V. But back when she was a freshman, she had a disastrous Valentine’s Day. After that horrible and memorable day, she changed her feelings about Valentine’s Day, and Saint V stopped appearing to her as a sweet cherub, and more like a frightening ghost.

Now Saint V has given her one year to find true love – until next Valentine’s Day. He’s asking for her heart — if she gives her heart only to the old spirit, she can escape her family’s curse of suffering with love.

She finds a wonderful boy when she joins a group of Lion Dancers. But why won’t he call her his girlfriend? There’s a lot going on as she looks for love, and it’s tied together with her own family history, with lion dancing, with friends who have different attitudes toward love, with spirits, and with Val choosing her own path.

I really enjoyed seeing LeUyen Pham draw older characters than what I’m used to. I can still recognize her basic style, but it’s softened, and the result is truly beautiful images. In graphic novels, I like to be able to tell the characters apart, and she achieved that well.

I did not at all begrudge my unplanned hour reading this book, and closed it with a smile. A truly lovely graphic novel.

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