Books, YA Fiction

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han

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3.75 Stars

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.

Believe it or not, I have good experiences with Jenny Han. I’ve enjoyed The Summer I Turned Pretty series and the Burn For Burn books that I am “currently” reading (the third book just happens to never be around…). These are the types of books that you shouldn’t think too much about, or else you could ruin the joy of the drama and angst. From what I’ve seen, the characters might get on your nerves a bit, but that’s okay, they can improve and develop normally and the plot is enjoyable enough. I always expect the same with the light contemporary books, but To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before seemed to receive a ton of negative reviews so I had lower expectations than usual. But honestly, if you just take this one in naturally, you’ll actually somewhat enjoy it. Of course I can’t speak for everyone, but the story is entertaining and if you don’t analyze the plot too much, it’s actually pretty sweet overall.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara Jean Song as she navigates through school, heartbreak, and boys, mainly boys. You see, Lara Jean copes with all her past loves through writing sugary sweet/dramatic love letters that are meant for nobody else’s eyes, but hers. But, it all goes to crap after someone mails the letters to each of her crushes and they come to confront her. Josh, Lara Jean’s sister’s ex-boyfriend and family friend and Peter, popular school douche and first kiss are the main ones. As she is confronted by Josh about the letter, in order to turn him down she forms a fake relationship with Peter, who is supposedly trying to make his ex-girlfriend, Genevieve, jealous. The more messier it is, the better!

The story might seem a tad unrealistic, but was definitely entertaining. It made me smile and laugh a number of times, mostly out of the pure cuteness of Lara Jean’s family and her relationship with Peter. While Lara Jean herself is another subject, the overall attitude and dynamic between her and her family was quite heartwarming. Lara Jean’s relationship with her sisters is what stood out to me the most, probably because I can relate to all the heartbreak, confusion, and love towards one another when facing a crisis, be it minor or major. Kitty, Lara Jean’s younger sister, was one of my favorite characters, and Margo, the elder one, was great while she was present in the book. After Margo comes back from college to visit, she has to deal with a colossal mess, and the way she and Lara Jean tried to understand each other was very relatable and necessary.

Lara Jean… I’ll admit she was relatively hard to like. I’ve been warned about her in almost every review I’ve read, and she is undeniably everything they have said. Lara Jean is naive, innocent, way too trusting, and a bit ignorant. She makes a whole bunch of idiotic decisions (mostly out of impulse and the want to prove herself as “responsible” after Margo’s leave) and sounds about 12 years old at some crucial moments. She’s extremely starry-eyed for a 17-year old girl and unfailingly calls her father “daddy” throughout the entire damn book. I’m not sure if I like her any better now that I’ve finished the book, but I will say she developed somewhat and hopefully improves in the next one.

Our side characters include Josh, Peter, Chris, and the other two Song sisters. The boys didn’t stick out to me as much, their characters seemed cliche, but I do think Peter has potential for development. The Song sisters (excluding Lara Jean) were probably my favorite characters throughout the book, and I truly wish there was more emphasis on them, specifically Margo. I think the book would have become more heartfelt and not as dramatic/shallow if it had more emphasis on growing up and the relationship between Lara Jean’s family instead of her love story. I didn’t particularly like this love triangle, because it reminded me of the love triangle between Belly, Connor, and Jeremiah in The Summer I Turned Pretty series. At least those characters were connected in some intimate way, but in this story it seemed like the boys were so hell bent on having Lara Jean, it’s like they didn’t have personal lives. It was unnecessary and unrealistic and was fueled with the fact that Lara Jean was not interesting and that she did not have any female friendships besides one with a trope of a friend, Chris, who is infamously known for her drinking habits and “sleeping around”.

Overall, if you can get over the immature female lead and soak up the lightness, you’ll enjoy this cute and fluffy read. Hopefully P.S I Still Love You focuses more on the family and sister dynamic, cause if the romance becomes any more sugary and sweet, my head will burst.

-Haven

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