I’ve never written a book review before so here goes nothing…
I must admit I had never really heard of Jenny Han before. I think I may have come across her once or twice while watching a few booktubers just mention her in what they were currently reading but I had never looked into who she is or what she has written.
My interest in Jenny Han sparked when I saw the new Netflix trailer for To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Immediately I fell in love when I saw the main character was going to be played by an Asain. Like YASS, hello, so excited!! The premise also looked pretty interesting but more so intriguing. I wanted to know how it was all going to play out and I’m impatient so I wasn’t going to wait until the movie came out so instead I bought the books.
Okay so a little background on the author, Jenny Han is an Asain American writer. She writes Young Adult Novels and has previously written a trilogy called The Summer I Turned Pretty and apparently it’s really good. She has also co-written other stories but we’re not going to focus on those.
Okay so let’s talk about To All The Boys I’ve Before…
Here’s the blurb.
“What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once? Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.”
First things first I am a sucker for anything cute and romantic when it comes to books. I love the idea of someone falling in love and being able to read about their journey. So when I picked up this book I kind of knew what to expect because the premise was laid out for us in the trailer and of course the blurb gives us a vivid enough picture. The book itself is very pretty. I love the cover and how girly it is, there’s just something about it that would make a teenage girl want to pick this book up and read it. Hey, it made a 25-year-old want to do that.
The story follows the journey of Lara Jean Covey who is biracial, she is half Korean and half Caucasian. You rarely find books especially YA books that have a POC as their lead. So it was quite endearing because representation really does matter especially through creative outlets. I also love the fact that Lara Jean is the middle child. How many stories do you read about middle children? None come to mind. Honestly, it was kind of refreshing to read through her perspective.
One of the main reasons I love this book is because of how easy it was to read. I finished it in 4 days. The writing style is very light and playful and kind of how do I put this amateurish because there is no complexity to any of it. I personally feel as though that adds to the charm of the book and also conveys Lara Jean’s personality and her innocence. So fair play Jenny Han, fair play.
Before I picked up this book, I had a little look on Goodreads to see what people thought of it. I mainly came across comments such as people didn’t like Lara Jean because she comes across as very childish and immature for her age. She is supposed to be 16 but acts a lot younger than she should be. Hmm I have to disagree because I feel like a lot of us are forgetting how immature and naive we were at 16. You are still a child and everyone develops and matures differently, at their own pace. For me, how Lara Jean is bought up, her family circumstances and who she is as a person comes across very well throughout the book.
She is quirky, goofy and a little bit whimsical, she quotes Sleepless in Seattle (which is one of my favourite films btw) She likes to keep a hold on old things, she writes letters to her crushes and keeps them in a hatbox which her mother gave to her if that isn’t the cutest thing ever I don’t know what is. I kinda love Lara Jean because she is a voice for many unheard teenagers.
Okay so less rambling and on to the story itself. The book started off slowly in the romantic department and is more so based on her family dynamics. Lara Jean has two sisters, One older sister Margot and a younger sister Kitty. He dad is an OBYGN and her mother passed away when she was younger. You grow to love each family member as they add so much depth and personality to the story. My personal favourite is Kitty, she is my long lost soul sister!
Even though we are initially fed the idea that there are five love letters which is in fact true. The story only focuses on two main love interests, Josh and Peter. You’ve got the boy next door who is seemingly the perfect boyfriend. Yes, he is dating Lara Jean’s sister Margot. Again I feel like people were criticising the fact that Lara Jean was in love with her sister’s boyfriend but if we take a step back and think rationally. When you grow up with someone and you are in such close proximity to this person and you do everything together you tend to develop feelings and I’m sorry sometimes the line gets blurred but you can’t really help how you feel.
Next, you have my main man Peter. He is your childhood best friend/crush who gets popular and hot and dates the popular girl but you have a bit of history. The two strike a deal to pretend to be together to help each other out. I found myself rooting for Peter throughout the book even though their relationship was fake it was a nice good clean romance. Which made me like the book even more. It is kinda fluff but the feel-good kinda fluff that addresses issues that a lot of teenagers face when it comes to love, family or just finding yourself.
The only thing I found slightly frustrating about this book was the fact that it ended on a cliffhanger. Like girrrrrl, if I didn’t already have the second book next to me I would be so mad. I guess it’s a good job that I did.
“Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?”
Book number two is a continuation of book one. You are thrown right in. Lara Jean loves to write letters and that how this book starts. It’s nice to see how Lara Jean has developed and grown even if it is only a little as a person and I think the letter to Peter shows that she is coming to terms with how she feels. The book is centred around her and Peter making their relationship real. The main focus in this book is the romance, we don’t really see any development outside that department whether it be family or friendships. So that was a little bit disappointing but I knew there was another book to go so I was okay with that.
In this instalment, another boy is thrown into the mix. He is one of the lucky five who received letters. He is also a childhood friend who grew up with both Peter and Lara Jean. I think adding him into the mix added a little bit more drama because you’ve got Lara Jean crushing on someone who is not her boyfriend and her boyfriend is spending more time with his ex.
I really give props to Jenny Han for trying to tackle an issue that is prevalent in this day an age. That being social media and anonymous online posting essentially cyberbullying. We see how both characters who are very different handle the situation. It also explores and points out double standards in society and how women receive the short end of the stick and guys just seem to get away without even an acknowledgement.
This book is the most eventful out of the three and moves a lot quicker than the first one. I’m not going to lie I don’t know how I felt about the ending just because I kinda saw it coming but at the same time, I didn’t want it to happen.
“Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends. Life couldn’t be more perfect! At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news. Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?“
I loved seeing each character come into their own and maturing especially our main character, Lara Jean. I felt like a proud older sister reading this book. We watch, well we read how she finally makes decisions for herself. One thing I love about Lara Jean is that when she is stressed out she bakes and I relate to that so much!! I just found myself laughing to myself at times.
We again get to explore her family dynamics and how everything has changed and developed since last had a proper look. Lara Jean’s Dad is getting married, Margot has a boyfriend and Kitty is just ever so wonderful and witty as ever!
You see a real side to our main character that lots of teenagers are able to relate to. She has applied for colleges and she is waiting to find out if she got in and you experience her anxiety with her because it is something we have all experienced in one way or another. Planning for the future and sometimes things don’t go to plan just like with Lara Jean. I think there is a moral to the story though, everything happens for a reason and sometimes something better is waiting for you. You just have to be brave enough to make the right choices for yourself.
Again this book was a little slow, there was hardly any drama except for Peter and Lara Jean not communicating properly and having one argument. Most of the drama, if there is any, it is centred around trying to get into college and making life fit with those plans. Other than that the book has an overall happyish theme going on.
Overall though I think it was a good conclusion to the series and we left our character feeling differently about them than we felt in the beginning. I was left feeling hopeful for what was to come in the future for both Lara Jean and Peter but also I felt like if they weren’t to make it, in the long run, it would be okay as well.
If I had to rate these books I would give them a 4/5 as an average because I did enjoy them but I didn’t fall in love completely. I might feel differently after I’ve had a little time to let all of it sink in but I feel like these books will be on my shelf for a long time to come and maybe one day I’ll have kids and I’ll suggest they give these books a whirl as they are good light-hearted reads that make you laugh, feel emotional and warm inside all at the same time.