To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1), by Jenny Han
Publish Date: April 15, 2014
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Romance
My Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 out of 5 stars)
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.
So, I’ve had this one sitting in my ereader for a couple of years now, and never felt like the right mood for it. But with the movie coming out on Netflix and seeing the trailer and all the posts about it on social media, the cuteness overload made me crave reading it to no end so of course I finally caved (despite having like four other books already in my currently-reading pile). This was fast-paced, funny and cute, with so much realness to it that I felt like the characters could easily walk off the page and into my life.
I loved Jenny Han’s writing style. It is very sharp and refined, but also full of life and beauty. The chapters are short, almost like small little vignettes into Lara Jean’s life that all flow together to create a wonderful story, and the pacing is fast, pulling the reader along for the ride with ease. I enjoyed the tiny things that were mentioned throughout, little tidbits of Peter and Lara Jean’s growing relationship and knowledge of each other. The sister theme was also very strong, and was beautifully written and felt so very real in every sense of what it means to have a sister. The whole thing just felt so down-to-earth and realistic in both the storytelling and the characters and had a way of making me feel happy no matter what.
I thought Lara Jean was a great protagonist. She had me laughing out loud, cheering for her, feeling upset for her, and getting angry on her behalf. I’ll admit there was times I thought she could be a little childish and naive, but I could also understand why she was so in those situations. Peter was surprisingly not what I expected based on what I’ve seen on social media – I thought he was going to be this perfect handsome gentleman, but he turned out to be such a regular teenager that it was kind of even better. Sure, he is kind and goes out of his way to make Lara Jean happy, but he also makes many mistakes and has flaws and can be an oblivious guy at times. They balanced each other well and I loved how natural their interactions were and every moment they spent time together was a bright point on the page.
I think of all the other characters, though, my favorite had to be Kitty. She was such a snake. I loved how manipulative she could be, both for herself and for her sisters. And the way she spoke to Peter the first time she met him had me in tears. She is definitely a girl after my own heart. The dynamic between Margot and Lara Jean, on the other hand, was definitely both positive and negative, with a great relationship between them based on Margot’s care for Lara Jean and Lara Jean’s respect for Margot, but there was also the issue of Margot having a bit of a control issue over Lara Jean’s life – constantly making suggestions about clubs and internships for Lara Jean to do, and also telling her that Peter wasn’t good for her even though she barely knew him herself. These sisters don’t have a perfect relationship, and that made for all the better a story and family dynamic.
My only issue would probably have to be with Genevieve. She seemed to be a grade-A b*tch with no redeeming factor whatsoever. Her excuse for no longer being friends with Lara Jean? Kind of dumb. [SPOILER] She got angry at her for kissing Peter in seventh grade. (She also said it was at her house, when before it was said to be at a guy’s house and they were alone so I don’t even know how she found out about it? Plothole?) It’s strange because he was the one who kissed her, and this was the second utterance of a guy kissing a girl where the girl gets blamed as though she had helped initiate the kiss in the first place. Why is Lara Jean being blamed for something she did not want to happen in the first place? [END SPOILER] Anyway, back to Gen – I just absolutely despised her and how her character was written. I couldn’t understand just what Peter ever saw in her, and without a redemption arc, I felt zero sympathy for her. I think something more was needed in order to make her character feel more real, because as it was, she came off far too stereotyped and flat on the page.
Oh, actually, there is one other issue I have – the ending. Ugh. Why do you play me like that, Jenny Han? [SPOILER] Where’s my reconciliation moment between Peter and Lara Jean. I mean, there’s obviously hope but I want an actual scene!! [END SPOILER] Way to force me into reading that sequel. Like I wasn’t going to already.
Otherwise, this was an excellent read. It was cute, realistic, and had me laughing out loud often. The characters are full of depth and life, and the writing is sweet and succinct. It is a fun and enjoyable story, with many ups and downs, and many, many moments to put a smile on your face.
Warning: this book may cause cookie cravings.
Beat the Backlist 2018 | Books Completed Toward Goal: 22/20