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Book Review: The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu

If we’re friends on goodreads or you follow me on twitter, you might have noticed that I’ve been on a romance—and audiobook—roll. Romance is a genre that I didn’t have much interest in before, but these days I find that it’s become the perfect feel-good genre for me. That being said, The Donut Trap offers much more than just a romance story.

About the book

Thanks to for sending me this ALC in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ★★★.5

Genre: Romance, contemporary

Representation: Asian main and secondary characters

Content warning: 

Release date: November 2nd

Summary: Jasmine Tran has landed herself behind bars – maple bars that is. With no boyfriend or job prospects, Jasmine returns home to work at her parents’ donut shop. Jasmine quickly loses herself in a cyclical routine of donuts, Netflix, and sleep. She wants to break free from her daily grind, but when a hike in rent threatens the survival of their shop, her parents rely on her more than ever.

Help comes in the form of an old college crush, Alex Lai. Not only is he successful and easy on the eyes, to her parents’ delight, he’s also Chinese. He’s everything she should wish for, until a disastrous dinner reveals Alex isn’t as perfect as she thinks. Worse, he doesn’t think she’s perfect either.

With both sets of parents against their relationship, a family legacy about to shut down, and the reappearance of an old high school flame, Jasmine must scheme to find a solution that satisfies her family’s expectations and can get her out of the donut trap once and for all.

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Despite being marketed as a romance story, this book has many other interesting aspects. In fact, I believe that the romance, although it’s cute and fun to read about, takes a back seat. Instead, the real stars of the show are the difficulties of life post-college and the relationships in an immigrant Chinese-Cambodian family.

Let me first address the romance part of the novel. This was the main reason I picked up this book, I wanted to read a fluffy romance. However, as it turns out, I didn’t care much for this aspect of the book. Don’t get me wrong, it was still joyful to read about, but I believed it paled in comparison to what the rest of the book had to offer. The love interest, Alex, wasn’t as developed as I would have liked, which made it hard to connect to him. We do see some glimpses of his personality and his own family problems but, in my opinion, it’s an incomplete picture. The interactions between our protagonist, Jasmine, and him were cute, but there was a certain something lacking, which might be caused by the lack of development of this character.

On the other hand, I thought the depiction of life post-college was perfectly done. It was easy to relate—especially if you yourself have been in her situation—and feel for Jasmine. She feels left behind, like everyone is moving on with their lives and she’s still unsure of what to do with hers. Her disappointment in her situation and confusion about what to do and where to start to create the life she wants is palpable. You’re constantly rooting for her and hoping that she will accomplish whatever it is that she wishes. In fewer words, her struggles are yours for the duration of the novel.

Finally, there is the portrayal of relationships in Jasmine’s Chinese-Cambodian immigrant family. Jasmine’s constant battle is the difficulties she experiences to connect to her parents. This is brought on by the language barrier—she can’t speak fluent Chinese, and her parents’ English is far from perfect—as well as the disparity in their lived experiences. Amanda @ Bookish Brews talks about how important it is to see this kind of relationships in fiction, and I must agree. Michelle @ Magical Reads also highlights the familial relationships in her review and reiterated how brilliant it is to see this type of representation.

All in all, The Donut Trap presented itself as a fun rom-com but ended up expanding beyond that. It creates a perfect picture of a realistic post-college experience and dives deep into family relationships in an immigrant family.

About the author

Julie Tieu is a Chinese American contemporary romance author based in the Los Angeles area. Her debut novel, The Donut Trap, is loosely inspired by the years she spent working at her family’s donut shop. When she’s not working, she’s eating her way through new destinations with her husband and two energetic kids.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Have you read The Donut Trap? What is your favourite similar romance novel?

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu

  1. Great review, Maria! Although the rest of the story sounds great and I always enjoy when romances dig deeper into a character’s backstory and their other struggles outside of the romance, I’m always disappointed when the romance (that I’m expecting) falls short. Still sounds like an interesting read though!

    Liked by 1 person

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