The Donut Trap

The Donut Trap

by Julie Tieu
Setting: California
Genres: Fiction, Food
Published on November 9, 2021
Pages: 368
Source: Library

Julie Tieu sparkles in this debut romantic comedy, which is charmingly reminiscent of the TV show Kim’s Convenience and Frankly in Love by David Yoon, about a young woman who feels caught in the life her parents have made for her until she falls in love and finds a way out of the donut trap.
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.

Obviously I had to read this book. Look at that cover! Who doesn’t want a romance set in a donut shop?

Jas is floundering. She graduated from college but went right back to working in her family’s donut shop. She’s feeling unappreciated by her very critical parents. Then she feels guilty for thinking badly about her parents who have had a very rough life. Her parents are ethnic Chinese people who lived in Cambodia until they fled to Vietnam and then California. The book does a good job of explaining how the refugee community takes people in and helps them get set up in life in the U.S.

This book is much more about Jasmine’s issues deciding what she wants to do with her life than the romance. This isn’t an easy romance-plot romance. Jas and Alex often find themselves at odds with their expectations for each other. In that way this feels like a more real story than a lot of the cute and cozy romances that you might expect. If you go into this book expecting light and fluffy, you might be disappointed. Listening to them snipe at each other and make assumptions about each other can be frustrating.

Jas is also trying to get her parents to modernize the store. She wants them to make Instagrammable donuts to lead to new clients. That’s a hard concept to explain to people who still have a “we just need to survive and make our family safe” ethic. Why are fancy flavors and icings making people pay absurd prices for donuts? The story doesn’t demonize either side. You see where each of them are coming from.

Pick this up for a foodie romance and then stay for good insights into the issues facing first and second generation immigrants.