Title: A Taste for Love
Author: Jennifer Yen
Publishing Date: February 2nd 2021
Age Category & Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Summary: For fans of Jenny Han, Jane Austen, and The Great British Baking Show, A Taste for Love, is a delicious rom com about first love, familial expectations, and making the perfect bao.
To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating.
The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date.
The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.
**Thank you to Razorbill and Netgalley for providing me an eARC. This, by any means, did not affect nor influence my review.**
WRITING, SETTING, CHARACTERS
A Taste for Love follows the story of Liza Yang, a Taiwanese American. She loves baking and they have a family business called Yin and Yang Restaurant and Bakery. Determined to show her parents—especially her mother, her skills in baking, she asked to join the annual baking contest they organize. However, her mom refused but allowed her to be a judge instead—to her surprise, her mother picked this year’s competitors based on her standards for whom Liza should date because she wants her daughter to date an Asian guy. This is written on Liza’s point of view. And is mostly set in Houston, Texas.
The writing was simple, easy to read, that just carried me away from the start. It was full of funny, delightful and heartwarming moments, but there is also a serious side. This is really mouthwatering. I love the descriptions of foods so much—almost like I can smell and taste them. Reading this also felt like I had a mini tour in Houston and New York. I really love how certain places were described and introduced. I was not familiar with many of the places mentioned but this made me curious enough to do a quick search about them, allowing me to easily picture them in my head and feel transported in those scenes.
I loved Liza from the very beginning. I easily connected and related to her. How she reacted to certain situations also reminded me of my teenager self. I love the small details included in her life. She is a reader, she loves to bake, to drink bubble tea with her best friend and to always hang out with her in the bubble tea store, she listens to K-pop, eats at Korean, Chinese, and Thai restaurants, she watches C-drama, and always watches on Netflix. We have some common interests and she just feels like a teenager in the present day. As an Asian, even the small detail of consuming things that originated from Asia makes me feel so seen and I love how I can also see my friends in her and her friends.
I love the familial, platonic, and romantic relationships. The love interest, James, is one I have also found interesting from the start. It took a bit of a time to get to know him, but I still ended up liking him. There really was a chemistry between him and Liza. I really appreciate the side characters as well, from Grace, to Ben, to Mrs. Lee, to Jeannie, and more. They have distinct personalities and roles that contributed a lot to the whole story.
FAMILY, ASIAN CULTURES, & BAKING
A Taste for Love tackles family expectations, Asian diaspora experience, miscommunication between parent and child and how that affects their relationship, reaching and fighting for your dream, passion, friendship, family business, baking, and being your own person. I like how these were explored. And love how it shows various Asian cultures as well.
Liza grew up in a strict household where Asian cultures are highly valued. Though my experience is not exactly similar—especially when it comes to dating, some of her experiences still feel too familiar. And though we focus on Liza’s experience, we also see how the other Asian characters have similar yet also different experiences.
I love the family dynamics, that it shows how different and complex parent-child relationships could be, and how the topic of family expectations was explored. Mrs. Yang is more on the traditional side and Liza finds her mom imposing many rules and high standards suffocating and hard to accept. I loved seeing both of their point of views. I understand Liza’s point of view, but now that I am an adult, I also learned to understand my parents, the way I also understand Mrs. Yang. I love how this aspect of the story was concluded as well.
There were also instances when Liza and Grace educate their white friend, Sarah, and when Sarah shows that you can actually stop, listen and learn from other people when they’re correcting and educating you about their culture and things you don’t know about.
Majority of the plot focuses on the baking competition. It was not boring. Though I am not really into cooking, I still enjoyed it. I love how it really talks about baking. I also highly appreciate the inclusion of various Asian foods, especially the pastries. I was introduced to many foods that I do not know about and would love to try someday.
The end was satisfying. I was left happy and feeling many emotions. I just enjoyed the whole journey so much.
The synopsis mentioned that Liza is a good student with good reputation, but we do not really get to see that side of hers much. As previously mentioned, majority of the plot revolves around the baking contest, so I suggest not to expect to see much of her student side, just in case.
A Taste for Love talks about family expectations, complex parent-child relationship, dreams and passion, a swoony romance, Asian cultures, and lots of food. It gave me so much joy and made me feel seen. I highly recommend, especially if you are looking for a fun read that talks about the abovementioned topics. Just do not read this when you are hungry or craving for bubble tea!
Jennifer Yen is a Taiwanese American author of young adult and adult fiction. She draws much of her inspiration from her Chinese and Japanese heritage.
Her debut novel, A Taste For Love, will be published by Razorbill (PGH) in Spring 2021, with a second book to follow.
Jennifer lives in Houston, Texas with her adorable rescue dog. She spends her days healing the hearts of others, and her nights writing about love, family, and the power of acceptance. She believes in the magic of one’s imagination, and hopes her stories will bring joy and inspiration to readers.
If you find her wandering around aimlessly, please return her to the nearest milk tea shop.