Book Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Written by: Jenny Han
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Pages: 355, hardcover
Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #1
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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

 

LetsTalk

Well. That was incredibly cute, and then slightly upsetting. I HAVE THOUGHTS.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure about this book at first, because I remember reading The Summer I Turned Pretty a few years back and not liking it at tall. But that was years ago, and several of my friends were HUGE fans of this book, and it was on Kindle for 1.99, so I decided to give it a chance, and I’m glad I did. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before uses some fairly common romantic tropes, but the writing style and characters make them fresh and new and heartfelt. This book was like a nice cup of hot chocolate in book form, and I will definitely be reading the next one.

(After that ending, I don’t think there’s any way I can NOT read the next one, but I’ll get to that later.)

In particular, this book succeeded with me, because I love stories about sisters who love each other, and I love the fake-relationship-turns-into-real-feelings trope. Guess what the main focus of this book is? Lara Jean, the main character, must deal with the changing dynamics between her and her two sisters when her older sister goes off to college. Lara Jean’s relationships with Margot and Kitty are loving and nuanced and complicated and wonderful. In an interesting chain of events related to a love letter written to her sister’s ex, Lara Jean ends up pretending to date popular athlete Peter Kavinsky. We all know where this is going, right? Basically everything from then on puts a smile on my face.

Didn'tWork

Both Lara Jean and Peter had what I like to call “decoy love interests” and they both felt so flt I ended up rolling my eyes whenever one of them showed up. Peter’s ex-girlfriend Genevieve was the stereotypical popular mean girl, and I kept expecting her to get more depth and development, and she never did, and the good girl/bad girl dichotomy between her and Lara Jean left a bad taste in my mouth. Lara Jean’s crush Josh is the stereotypical nice-except-when-he’s-not boy-next-door who I probably could not pick out of a line-up. I did not at any point understand what Lara Jean or Margot saw in him.

My biggest complaint, though, is the ending. The last 40-ish pages of the book felt so rushed–there was so much going on, and the piling-on of Big Events made them feel somewhat contrived. Because it was so close to the end, there wasn’t really room to develop an adequate resolution. In particular, I felt like Lara Jean and Margot had a lot more to work through and discuss than they did. I understand that there’s going to be a second book, but I still would have liked more of a sense of completeness. And that last page…let’s just say that if I hadn’t known there would be a sequel, I would have thrown my Kindle out the window, and that would have been bad for everybody involved.

DidWork

Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship was adorable and hit me in all of my weaknesses. Opposites attract? Fake relationship turning into real feelings?  Flawed characters changing their assumptions and  helping each other grow and meeting in the middle? Plus, there was Peter writing Lara Jean notes and the two of them having flour fights and really cute back-and-forth and watching them fall in love without realizing it and making me fall in love with them too. Needless to say, I smiled a lot.

I loved Lara Jean’s voice. The writing was gorgeous and had a very distinct and cozy feeling, and Jenny Han puts emotions into words in a beautiful way. I almost immediately got a sense of who Lara Jean was–a little naive, a little off-beat, contemplative, romantic. She can and will stand up for herself and her beliefs, but she can also change her beliefs when she needs to. She felt very real to me, and so did her slow maturing throughout the book.

I had a lot of feelings about Lara Jean’s relationship with her sisters. From the beginning, the bond between Lara Jean, Margot, and Kitty is obvious, and it persists even through all their conflicts. I am particularly looking forward to the way Lara Jean and Margot’s relationship develops in the next book.

 

Pickup

If you’re in the mood for a genuine and heartfelt romance with a strong emphasis on family relationships, definitely read this. That said, if you don’t like waiting for the next book after a cliffhanger, you might want to wait until closer to June.

 

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