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