Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: To All The Boys I’ve Love Before by Jenny Han

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Review: To All The Boys I’ve Love Before by Jenny Han
To All The Boys I've Loved Before
Jenny Han
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: April 15th 2014
by Simon & Schuster BfYR

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Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them... all at once?

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.

Around the time that To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before came out I saw nothing but love for it on my GR feed. This made me pretty excited to get around to reading it myself. I’d never read anything by Jenny Han before and this seemed like the perfect book for me to get started with. I think all of those expectations came back to bite me in the butt because I was pretty bored and annoyed through the entirety of this novel.

Lara Jean is the middle Song sister. She has her older sister Margo who is just setting off to college in Scotland and her younger sister Kitty who she is in charge of in Margo’s absence. Their mother died long ago and the girls have learned to fill in her shoes and take care of each other over the years. As I got to know Lara Jean I couldn’t help but feel that she was incredibly naive and immature. The way that she processed things in her head and reacted to what goes on around her didn’t seem like that of a sixteen or seventeen year old even. Because of this I found myself feeling like I was reading a middle grade novel for long stretches of time. She’s a very timid girl, quite shy and incredibly nervous to try new things and because of this I couldn’t relate to her at all. I am sure that there are people out there who will definitely identify with her but I just couldn’t get there. I wanted her to grow up and grow some courage when it came to her love life and found myself rolling my eyes far too often as I read.

The romance was something that I was hoping to find sweet and fluttery but that too felt underwhelming to me. After Lara Jean’s private letters get sent out she goes into damage control mode to cover up her true feelings for Margo’s ex-boyfriend Josh. Josh had become a staple in the Song household even before he began dating Margo. He is great with young Kitty and even Mr. Song seems to love him like a son. To get Josh to believe that Lara Jean no longer has feelings for him she makes a pretend relationship contract with another boy who received a letter, Peter. Of course Peter wouldn’t normally go into this willingly but he recently broke up with his long term girlfriend and wouldn’t mind making her a little jealous. This whole thing was supposed to be cute and quirky I think, and it did manage to get there at the tale end but it just took too long. In the end I was a pretty big fan of Peter but we are left with basically no resolution when it comes to them which had me very annoyed. It was very strange to me all along that Lara was so into Josh despite how close all the sister’s are. I mean there was a part of her that knew it was wrong and something that she shouldn’t pursue all along but she is pretty open to a romantic relationship with Josh at a few points in the novel. So this just annoyed me more and in the end I was left with no romance to get the butterflies over.

Despite Lara’s crush on Margo’s ex, the one thing I think was really well done in the novel was the sisterhood between the girls. I grew up with an older sister and I know what it’s like, very rocky at times. I think the fights and even the sweet moments between the Song sister’s felt really authentic. There’s a fight at the end in which Han describes how sister fights are different from regular fights and everything she says in that section is pretty much bang on with every fight I have ever had with my sister. It was refreshing to see a sisterhood portrayed so well and be so important to the novel. I almost wish there was no romance to be had in the book and that we just go to live out life watching the Song sisters’ lives change with Margo going away.

I am surely the black sheep here because there is only one review on Goodreads amongst my friends that is below 3 stars so take my review with a grain of salt. I think I would have appreciated the novel a lot more if I had been able to identify with Lara Jean at all or if some of the romance worked for me but unfortunately it didn’t. I do still want to read Han’s Summer novels and intend to do so, I just hope I fare a lot better with those ones.

2.5 Stars
2.5 Hot Espressos

19 Responses to “Review: To All The Boys I’ve Love Before by Jenny Han”

  1. Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    That’s too bad about the middle-grade like heroine, that would have annoyed me to no end too! It sucks when you end up shooting yourself in the foot on account of your expectations, but we all do it. Thanks for the honest review, hopefully your next read will be better! Happy Friday. 🙂

  2. Ashley

    Bummer you didn’t like this one much. 🙁 I’m soooo confused about whether or not I should read this book. It seems like a “love it or hate it” book. I see some people giving it 5+++ stars, saying it’s the BEST BOOK EVER. Then I also have a few friends who have given it 1 or 2 stars. That’s always hard because I never know which side I’ll fall on!

    Great review. 🙂

  3. Ari

    I wanted so badly to like this books as the premise was pretty cute and the cover lovely. I just got bored too soon and lost interest in it. You are right about the middle-grade thingy, this book (in fact the heroine) was a bit too young for me, but also it seemed like nothing interesting happened *sigh* I liked the family dynamics though, that was a plus.

  4. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I’m sorry to hear that this wasn’t a strong read for you, Jenni. I can see why it was frustrating for you. This has received nothing but praise so far from other bloggers, so I was glad to read yours. I will lower my expectations for sure. The main character does seem really naive though and the romance sounds rather disappointing. I did hear about a sequel though so I’m guessing that it will be resolved in the next book.
    Great review, Jenni.

  5. Faye D'Social Potato (@kawaiileena)

    Totally understand your sentiments on this, Jenni. I wanted to try this one, but after reading many reviews of my friends who weren’t impressed, I’ve come to the conclusion as well that this may not exactly be for me. Lara Jean sounds too young, and I’ve read snippets and goodness, she does sound immature. You’re definitely not alone there!

  6. Kelsey

    I enjoyed this one, but I can see where you’re coming from. I’ve seen people like or hate it.
    I saw on Goodreads that this is also going to be a series, so maybe things will be better in the next one if you do decide to continue.
    Thanks for your honest review! 🙂

  7. Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed

    I DNF the audio because I couldn’t stand how she called and referred to her parents as mommy and daddy. Especially when it’s like ‘make sure you take good care of daddy’…apparently I’m a perv 🙂
    This is one of those things that is a book pet peeve but not a real life pet peeve. I’m glad I wasn’t the only black sheep about this book.

  8. Michaela @Will Read for Coffee

    Bummer there was so much hype around this book I was hoping to get around to reading it but I am not a good middle grade books reader and it sounds like this book is more on their level. Oh well. I have a great 11 yr old friend I can recommend this too. Thanks for the review Jenni!:)

  9. Aimee @ Deadly Darlings

    We mostly have the same thoughts on this one, Jenni. I thought Lara acted a lot like she was the youngest, rather than the middle child. I felt I like I was reading an MG book, too. And yes! The romance wasn’t as cute as I’d hoped it’d be. The sisterly relationship between the girls was definitely the best aspect of the book. 🙂 Lovely review!

  10. Dana

    I started this book a few weeks ago, and I keep putting it aside in favor of more interesting books. I have a hard time believing that Lara Jean is approx. my age. She sounds much younger. I also don’t like that both love interests are flat characters. This book is still marked “currently reading” but I’m ready to give up.

  11. ShootingStarsMag

    This didn’t really sound like something for me anyway, but i’m sorry you first look at the author wasn’t great. That’s good you’re willing to try her other books! I’ve never read anything by her yet either.

  12. Pili

    Awww, bummer to hear you didn’t enjoy this one more! I have it on my pile of books to read for June and I hope I’ll like it more!
    Thanks for the very honest review, Jenni!

  13. Lisa (Lost in Literature)

    Oh, no. Sorry you weren’t a huge fan of this one, Jenni. I keep going back and forth on this one. The reviews are all over the place! I think I’ll still give it a try, but now I can have more realistic expectations and not look forward to the Wow Factor.

  14. Madiha @ Symphony of Words

    It so sad that you didn’t like this one! I was hoping to get my hands on this next because I heard it was a beautiful romance, but if that’s whats mediocre here, then I think I’ll just be skipping this one 🙁

  15. Tanya

    You’re not the only black sheep. {raises hand} After all the hype surrounding this one and all the gushing reviews, I was sure I would love it. Unfortunately not. It was just… meh.

    I should probably have known that this was not the book for me because I’m not particularly a fan of cutesy and sweet. I prefer something a little edgy instead of the super “clean teen” reads. And TATBILB was just too cutesy/sweet to fit into the realm of believable for me. Lara Jean was supposed to be 16 but her thought process, emotions and reactions seemed years younger. And except for a few very mild references to sex, this was the cleanest, most well-behaved group of kids I’ve ever encountered in one place. {rolling my eyes}

    I did like Peter and thought he added some welcome conflict/banter but even that ended abruptly with no resolution. I ended up giving it 3 stars (Side rant: why, oh why, won’t GoodReads allow for half-star ratings?!) and I doubt I will pick up the follow-up when it’s released.

  16. Savannah

    Thanks for being honest in your review. Even though you had trouble in some areas with the book, I still want to read it myself.

  17. Alexa

    Oh you are not the only one who struggled to like this one. I have been reading this one for three or so weeks now and I keep putting it down for other books. I like the book for some of the aspects you mentioned but Lara does act very young. I find myself just bored with the story. I did go to a signing for this book though and the author said that the second book is going to focus more on the boy that Lara Jean really liked in the past. It is the only letter that isn’t read in the book of the 5. His name escapes me right now…
    I hope that in the second half of this book that I can find more to like about it but as of right now I understand that bored feeling.
    Thanks for the great review!

  18. Carla

    Everyone in Goodreads are raving about this one, so I don’t know what to think about this really. It wasn’t as if I did not enjoy the story (because I did, I swear) but the way the story was concluded was a little too abrupt. From other bloggers, I have heard that this one has a sequel, I still gave it a 3/5 rating just because the novel isn’t that good as a stand alone. Will I change my mind about the rating? No. Will I be waiting for the sequel? Definitely.