Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee combines rival restaurants with secret scheming in a story of unlikely friendship and embracing one’s true self. As a fan of the enemies to lovers trope, I enjoyed the dynamic between Theo and Gabi as they come together to save their family restaurants, and the differing dynamics between both families are well-written. This book is both entertaining and heartbreaking, and it is perfect for those who enjoy a contemporary that delves into more serious themes.Title: Café Con Lychee
Author: Emery Lee
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult Fiction
Publication Date: May 10, 2022
Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet
Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.
Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.
But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?
❃ I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. ❃
Review: Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee
Theo and Gabi are not friends. Beyond their parents’ restaurant rivalry, the two keep their distance on the soccer field until Gabi accidentally sprains Theo’s wrist. However, when a new fusion café threatens to put both of their restaurants out of business, the two must work together to find a solution. Under the guise of running deliveries for Theo’s family restaurant and planning for the upcoming homecoming dance, Theo and Gabi secretly sell food at school to make up for lost funds. As they spend more time together, they realize that they have more in common than they thought, and their relationship blossoms into friendship and something more.
❀ Enjoyable Characters
Both Theo’s and Gabi’s perspectives are included in the book, and I enjoyed the way their personalities contrast. Theo is, cool, confident, and comfortable with his sexuality while Gabi struggles to come out and must learn to be himself. This is no easy task as Gabi’s father doesn’t support queerness and frequently makes homophobic remarks. I have to admit, I enjoyed Gabi’s character much more than Theo’s, but I still loved reading about the ways they change each other for the better.
❀ Strong Family Dynamics
One of the aspects I found particularly strong is the look at family dynamics. Both Theo and Gabi face different struggles at home, and their families’ reactions to their sexualities differ. While Theo is out, he feels as though his parents aren’t fully supportive, and Gabi must find the confidence to stand up to his father. These moments in the book are heartbreaking, but I appreciated the realism to the characters’ stories, and I enjoyed the direction they take at the book’s end.
❀ Balances Humour with Heartbreak
Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee balances humour with heartbreak in a story about growth and unexpected relationships. I loved the way the story is centred around rival restaurants, and while I didn’t find the main characters the most likeable, I enjoyed the ways they influence each other. The complex family dynamics are especially well-written, making this a great read for those looking for a contemporary that delves deep into relationships.