To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a young adult, contemporary and first in a series by Jenny Han. It was published on April 15th, 2014 by Simon & Schuster.
After years of hearing so much about this contemporary series, I’ve finally read it. I loved it, no doubt, even though some things might not be the best of all. But I think I was majorly impressed because I hadn’t gone in with any expectations at all. So if you’re going to read this in the future, go in blindly. Or try to stay away from spoiler reviews.
The story is about Lara Jean, a junior in high school who writes letters to her crushes in order to vent out her feelings for them. Safely secured in a hat box, she had never imagined the letters to reach the guys they were written for, but they do. And that’s when things get worse. Yup, worse because things are already pretty bad. Lara Jean’s elder sister, Margot, is leaving for college. Her younger sister, Kitty, is only nine years old and her father is a single parent who is working hard to care for his three daughters after the death of their mother.
“It’s not like in the movies. It’s better, because it’s real.”
There are so many things I liked. For one, the MC is so relatable. I can’t talk for everyone but for me, there are so many traits of Lara Jean that resonate with me. She’s an anxious, aesthetic lover, potterhead who is scared to take up responsibilities even when she tries her best to actually take them up. After Margot leaves for college (and temporarily leaves the picture) Lara Jean has to climb up the ladder form the middle child to an elder one. And it becomes all the more harder for her because Margot was doing an excellent job, and no matter how good she tries to do, Lara Jean doesn’t find herself excelling like Margot.
I think she stood out for me because of the little things that made her miserable. Like driving when she finds it tough to do. Or trying to cheer Kitty up when she’s angry with Lara Jean. Those tiny instances made the book more contemporary to me. Also, she loves baking and talks so much about cake and cupcakes that it’s hard to believe someone didn’t relate to her.
Moving on, the conflict in the story was strong enough to get me hooked. While there’s a reveal a few chapters in (which I’m not mentioning because it would give you expectations/assumptions and I want you to read this without any) the inciting incident is impacting. I mean, the letters that no one was meant to read have now reached those who they were written for. If that doesn’t ring anxiety and hasty decisions, then I don’t know what would.
“If love is like a possession, maybe my letter are like my exorcisms”
Following this event, Peter Kavinsky steps into the picture. Again, I’m not giving away reasons as to why Lara Jean and Peter decide to fake a relationship. But due to circumstances, they do it. That’s when my guilty pleasure trope of pretentious-turning-real-relationship comes in the scene. And everything that follows has me giggling or laughing out loud.
The humor is another factor that got me impressed. Even though the first person writing was simple and easily flowing, it did a good job to balance the hysteric scenes and the subtly impactful ones. There are times when Lara Jean’s thoughts or actions would make me chuckle, and there are bigger times when her realisations would make me want to quote every line.
“Do you think there’s a difference? Between belonging with and belonging to?”
The character development was well done. For those who don’t know, characters who don’t move from one square to the other have to always face my wrath. But not here. Both, the main and side characters evidently change over the course of the story and that’s exactly what I expect from my books.
Lastly, the sisters! There aren’t many YA books I’ve read yet that highlight siblings, and being an only child makes me fond of them in fiction, so Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty were this perfectly complementary sisters who were unimaginable without each other. One particular thing I would mention is the drastic change that comes to Lara Jean’s life when Margot departs for college to Scotland, because she had gotten used to her elder sister being there. It was almost like her existence was impossible without Margot. But what was amusing was the journey that Lara Jean takes for herself and finally finds herself as an individual and not just a middle child of the family. That made me so happy.
“When someone’s been gone a long time, at first you save up all the things you want to tell them. You try to keep track of everything in your head. But it’s like trying to hold on to a fistful of sand: all the little bits slip out of your hands, and then you’re just clutching air and grit.”
I know the list is super long and now you must be wondering why I’ve taken a star from this. Well, there were two things that didn’t work for me. Firstly, Chris, the best friend, is so conveniently brought into the story, it’s a bit annoying. Her friendship with Lara Jean is so underdeveloped that most of the times I felt like she was just using Lara Jean and wanted to slap the main character for being used. Though, I was glad to read about a best friendship between two completely opposite girls, so I would give them that.
Secondly, Peter keeps talking about his ex girlfriend! Yes, I know how that’s justifiable according to the story but a few scenes where he doesn’t give a shit about Lara Jean and keeps interacting with his ex, I got frustrated. Though, he was that handsome-jerk-who-isn’t-that-of-a-jerk character (another guilty pleasure of mine) so I had to let that slide through. However, toward the end (I’m trying so hard to make this spoiler free) he doesn’t speak up against stuff that should be spoken against because that stuff was directly linked to him and Lara Jean and…no, I didn’t like that.
“I want to say yes, but I don’t want to be with a boy whose heart belongs to somebody else. Just once, I want to be somebody else’s first choice”
Overall, it was definitely a fun read! I would recommend this to all those looking for a light, summer-ish read set in high school and using all the amazing tropes that you secretly love.
YOU TELL ME!
Have you read this? Are you planning to? It’s being made into a movie! How does that make you feel?
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– F A N N A
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