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As promised, I finished reading Jenny Han’s popular novel for teens and young adults, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which is actually coming out as a movie (filming concluded last year). Honestly, I am happy there is a movie, especially because they cast a great Lara Jean, but skeptical otherwise because of the rest of the cast (like Margot, played by Mona from Pretty Little Liars…) and the novel, which I will get into.
part of the book’s charm is the fact that there’s a sweet innocence to the tale
First, the summary re: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Lara Jean Song Covey is the half-Korean, half-White protagonist in her junior year of high school. A complete romantic and sweetheart, she has fallen for five boys over her lifetime and written a secret love letter to each that she’s kept hidden with no intention of ever mailing them out. However, by some twist of fate, they do get sent out, and she finds herself scurrying to deal with the consequences while figuring out what it means to truly like someone.
All right, now on to the review. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’s target audience is definitely teeny boppers, there is no denying this. Of course this doesn’t mean that someone in their twenties, like myself, would not enjoy the romance novel, but you do have to read it with some mental preparation because it can be very cringeworthy at times. Get ready for your fingers to curl up at the cheese. If I were younger in high school, I would definitely enjoy the story infinitely more, but it has the typical corniness that you would see in a Disney or Lifetime movie–and it can be a bit much to handle.
Having said that, part of the book’s charm is the fact that there’s a sweet innocence to the tale. You are drawn to the story because everything does seem so perfect (without completely brushing over how brutal and unfair other high school students can be). Enhancing that is the smooth, simple flow of Jenny Han’s writing style. Her writing doesn’t have unnecessary flourishes but is quite straightforward. Still, there are beauty and thoughtfulness in some of her words, which strike the hearts of every young girl inside no matter your age. She awakens your gushing, giggling teen self if you’re no longer a teen, and that’s a nice touch.
You can’t help but fall in love with the “Song girls” because they have this heartwarming relationship as sisters.
On to the characters, let me tell you that another con is… none of them are actually that likable. Lara Jean is too frustratingly sensitive and naive at times. I question whether she’s really seventeen because she sometimes sounds more like a fourteen year old. Her older sister Margot can seem almost rigid, proud, and cruel. The youngest sister, Kitty, is the epitome of a coddled brat. The way she’s described seems almost like caricature, so, in my opinion, she’s not the most well-developed or realistic character in the book. So on, so forth. However, this is all forgivable (except maybe Kitty, in the first book anyway) because they’re all lovable (well, except maybe Kitty). You can’t help but fall in love with the “Song girls” because they have this heartwarming relationship as sisters. You want to be a part of their family because they’re always up to something cozy and familial. There is charm in all the love interests, especially Peter Kavinsky.
And that’s really the biggest charm of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Well, not Peter Kavinsky (he may be the second biggest charm), but the family life. The best words to really describe them are “cozy” and “homey.” They’re always cooking, scrapbooking, shopping, knitting, talking, cuddling. There’s a nice rhythm to their lives at home. They get along well for the most part, and if there is conflict, Jenny Han does a great job of making it believable and understandable, not thrown in there for drama’s sake. That is why the Coveys are my, and many other people’s, favorite part. It’s nice being part of this sitcom-perfect household and having a rare insight into a mixed family.
Overall, this novel reads like a K-Drama–the older types, anyway. This is both good and bad. You get the perfect setup and great premise with the love letters, but then it really gets into the very K-Drama gimmicky area later on that sets up most of the plot and drama. It happens in a very you-can’t-help-but-roll-your-eyes type of way. Still, this can be alluring to many people.
(**Spoiler for one major plot hole**) One thing that bothers me and seems to be a major flaw is the fact that Lara Jean and Peter’s “cover story” to getting together is that he helped her by giving her a ride back home after she gets into an accident when… the person she is trying to fool is Josh, and literally he was the one who helped her after the accident… So how would this work? Josh only has to be like, “Um… Lara Jean, but I was the one who was with you and took you home… So AHA THIS IS ALL A LIE!”
Would I recommend To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? Yes. Especially with the movie coming up (oh, but yeah, that’s why I’m scared–all that cheese that is sure to come and will likely be made worse by actual line delivery). It’s an easy, quick, fun read, a good go-to if you’re in need of an escape or guilty pleasure. The writing is engaging and the story is well paced.
I am currently waiting for the sequel, P.S. I Still Love You, to be delivered to my house from Amazon. I already read it but want to reread before writing the review. (Ah, just typing out the title makes me cringe inside.) In the meantime, you can try out To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before* to see for yourself whether it’s worth the read, and check out other book reviews here!