Title/Author: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Series: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (#1)
Filed Under: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic
Publisher/Published: Scholastic, January 1st 2014
Format/Pages: Paperback, 420 pages
Rating: ★★★★ 4 stars
Where To Find: Goodreads | The Book Depository
Synopsis: 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 (pulled from Goodreads).
[Mild Spoilers Below]
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is exactly the cute, fluffy read that I needed to spur my descent back into reading. After the devil (sorry, exams) took over my life I begun to find it incredibly difficult to reach any kind of steed in reading. Even before that, I’d been going at a slow rate most unusual for myself. This, though, is exactly the kind of thing that makes you want to squeal at 1am in the morning because oh my gosh Peter K. has donuts.
Jenny Han’s latest YA realistic contemporary throws the reader in to a half-Korean family of three sisters and one dad. Margot (the oldest) is preparing to leave for Scotland where she will be going to university, leaving Lara Jean (the protagonist) and nine-year-old Kitty back home. Before reading this book I thought it would be an epistolary novel similar to Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria. I was quite pleasantly surprised though, since I’m not the greatest fan of letters masquerading as novels. In actual fact, the letters I thought were referenced in the title were love letters that we did get to see and read, but alongside a more traditional narrative. In fact, other than spurring the plot on a little at the start, the letters didn’t actually play as big a role in the story as I imagined they might.
When Lara Jean has an all-consuming crush, she lets it fester for a while and once she’s ready to say goodbye to it and move on she writes the boy a love letter, which she addresses but doesn’t post, keeping them safe in a hat box her mother gave her. Except then one day all of these letters are somehow sent out and chaos ensues. Of the five boys, one of them is gay, two of them she doesn’t know any more, one of them is a ‘player’ and highly popular boy now, and the other is Josh, her sister’s ex-boyfriend and general close family friend. It’s about as chaotic as things can get. But, not to worry, what I thought would be a standard girl-pines-for-boy-forever story actually developed into something much more: the fake dating trope. If you aren’t a big fan of the trope then you might not enjoy this book but I, self-proclaimed #1 lover of all things cliché, absolutely ADORE IT. So, I bet you can see why I’m so enamoured by this book now. I can’t resist the cute, heart-warming fake dating.
“Let’s just do this for a little while.” “Do what?” “Let’s let people think we’re a couple.” – (p.131)
In reality, this book is about much more than romance and falling in love too easily. It’s about the bond between two sisters and how so many interweaving plots can break it apart, piece by piece, but in the end they’re sisters, and sister’s fight and argue and lie and scream and yell, but they love each other all the same. Lara Jean faces a much different life after Margot leaves but she pulls herself around and learns how to do all the things Margot ever did for her, but this time for Kitty instead. And in more ways than one, Lara Jean matures way more than most give her credit for. A lot of the fault seems to be in that she cries a lot but can anyone really fault a sixteen year old girl who practically raises her nine year old sister alone, has had letters detailing her deepest and darkest loves published to said crushes, and misses her older sister (who is in another country for heaven’s sake!) just for being a little over emotional?
There were only two major faults that I had with the book: Lara Jean’s voice, and her lack of real friendship with Chris (or, even, anybody). When I first started reading it I was severely put off by the way in which Lara Jean’s voice came across. It’s significantly more like a 12 year olds than a 16 year olds. I think as the book goes on though this does change: either that, or you get used to it, and it doesn’t bother you any more. My second issue, regarding her (female) friend Chris, is that they didn’t particularly have a friendship and, well, that’s my number one pet peeve about ya in general. For the life of it no girl ever seems to have an actual friendship with a girl! A friendship where both parties like each other, they both have common interests, they both actually spend time together in the book. At times, Chris could be ignored for chapters and chapters, and it really did annoy me. I understand that the book centres more on romance and sibling bonds than it does general friendship, but still.
Regardless, I did thoroughly enjoy To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and I really really need to get my hands on PS I Still Love You now, though I’ll no doubt have to wait days for it if I have to purchase it. It’s not a literary masterpiece but it is an amazing pick-me up filled with cute moments, teenage romance, and an interesting delve into how much donuts can truly persuade a girl (haha). I adore this book, despite the two areas I picked out, which is why I am giving it 4 stars.
Favourite Quote: “If love is like a possession, maybe my letter are like my exorcisms.” (p.2)
Favourite Parts: Donuts. Peter’s mom’s minivan. The hot tub scene. Christmas Cookie Extravaganza. Puppy!! Kitty/Josh moments. Kitty/Peter moments. The estate sale.
Least Favourite Parts: Hot tub rumours. Margot’s kitchen discovery. The daddy/daughter sex talk.
Would Recommend To: People looking for a light-hearted, fluff-filled read. Those seeking out a cute summer book. Anyone who wants something simple, quick, and easy to read whilst still engaging with an interesting plot.