Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (#1)
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Penerbit Spring
Publication Date: March 20, 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
“I wonder what it’s like to have that much power over a boy. I don’t think I’d want it; it’s a lot of responsibility to hold a person’s heart in your hands.”
Dear fellow Babblers,
More than half way through the year and I have finally started a series. Or, well, trilogy. Talk about a late bloomer, huh? I’m usually intimidated and anxious about going into series because what happens if I read the first and then not like it? I can’t just stop there. Even if I don’t like a series, I feel obliged to stick it out through each and every book. Spoiler alert: that did not happen with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I’m writing a review on the first, though let me warn you that I read all three this week alone! I simply could not put this book down. It was not thrilling in any stretch of the imagination but had me smiling, laughing, reminiscing on my own high school relationships the whole way through. I’m officially a Jenny Han fangirl and after reading my review I hope my readers will be too.
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?
Sixteen-year-old 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.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a cute and humorous coming of age story told in the first person by a quirky and hopeless romantic 16 year old high school girl living in Virginia, Lara Jean (Song) Covey. She’s never had a boyfriend and it’s obvious from the very first page that it’s her goal to remain taken in her mind but single in reality. But she doesn’t say this. Instead she writes love letters to all the boys that she’s ever had feelings for, seals them, and then tucks them away into a hat box her deceased mother gave her when she was little. To be exact, their are five love letters total and it is never Lara Jean’s plan for any of these boys to read these letters. But that is exactly what happens…
Lara Jean has one older sister, Margo who is just about ready to head off to college in Scotland, leaving her boyfriend, Josh, behind. She heeds her mother’s advise: “never go to college with a boyfriend,” and breaks up with Josh just a few weeks before she leaves. And then, of course, there is Kitty, the youngest of the Song sisters. She is nine years old and is spunky, feisty, and quick with a comeback. Very little happens that misses Kitty’s radar and easily finds antics to get what she wants and have her way no matter what. The girls live with their American father, whose a doctor, but seem to relate more with their Korean side, getting giddy over Green Tea face masks, cute stationary, and tuna sushi dipped in soy sauce.
One day, as Lara Jean is walking around the field with her best friend, Chris during P.E. the hottest guy in school, Peter Kavinsky runs right up to her and asks what she really meant by her letter and even goes on to make the point that he does not have STDs as the letter assumes. Lara Jean is almost sure this is a nightmare. It has to be. How could it be that Peter, the first boy she’s ever loved. The first boy she’s ever kissed, could have seen that letter?
That very day Lara Jean runs home in a frenzy to check her hat box. All letter gone, undoubtedly in the hands of the five boys. To make matters worse one of these lucky fellows is Josh. Yes, the same Josh that just got dumped from Margot, and he even lives right next door… awkward. The confrontation Lara Jean must endure with Josh regarding the letter is really what gets the ball rolling in this book.
Lara Jean doesn’t want Josh to think she still loves him so in the middle of the hallway at school Lara Jean makes a mad dash to the first boy in sight: Peter, jumps right up, wraps her legs around his waist and plants a kiss directly on his lips. Mission accomplished: Josh thinks Lara Jean is dating the lacrosse stud and Lara Jean has just humiliated herself in front of the whole school. Peter is startled, of course, but lets not say in a bad way.
Lara Jean and Peter make a deal: pretend to be in a relationship for Lara Jean’s sake concerning Josh and to make Peter’s vicious ex girlfriend, Genevieve jealous. As a character Peter initially seems like a complete and utter jerk whose only objective is to get right into a girls pants without first asking what her name is. Peter has a great many flaws and he’s so into himself but there’s something about him that ticks when he’s around Lara Jean and he automatically becomes almost a different person. Even though Peter does some pretty shady stuff and at times seems to be playing Lara Jean as a puppet, by the end I was probably just as in love with hime as Lara Jean herself. He has confidence and certainty which makes him admirable, but he’s also caring with a fragile heart. He’s scared, though he doesn’t explicitly say it, of having his heart broken, just as Lara Jean is. As the plot progresses and takes some unexpected turns it becomes harder and harder for Lara Jean and Peter to keep pretending as they soon realize that everything they have been looking for in a relationship is right in front of their eyes.
The plot sounds totally cheesy and cliché – I get it people. But what’s the big deal in reading a book that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and gives you back lost hope that somewhere out there love really is attainable (*scoff* if only that were true). This didn’t bother me like it did most people because I was so charmed by Lara Jean’s character and her close relationship with her family. She’s sweet and innocent, but with Peter she feels different. Not wild, but just, looked at; important; popular; cared for. There were several moments in this book where I just couldn’t hold back a laugh or a smile – it was just all too adorable to handle. Lara Jean’s letters are sentimental and heartfelt. She lives in a dreamy daze. She’s a helpless romantic who wants her first kiss to be filled with tingling passion, her first sexual encounter to be memorable and with someone that knows her inside and out. In short, she lives in la-la land. But now with this “thing” she has going on with Peter and the other four letters flowing around she comes back to mother earth.
The letters being sent off is really the best thing that could have happened to Lara Jean because it makes her grow and become more self-aware of the delicacy of her heart. She wants love and affection, but is terrified of the possibility for heartbreak. She thinks she can love more than one boy at once and what I really love is the fact that she does. She musters up the courage to have love and even though she shies away from it at times, in the end, she always seems to find her way back.
The writing style is simple and lighthearted. It’s almost a given that this book will easily be adapted into a film. There aren’t too many descriptions and the book is very heavy in dialogue which makes it extremely easy to understand and follow. Han’s idea was not to provide some romantic fairytale but to demonstrate to demonstrate the growth of a relationship with all its hardships and obstacles. I really noted a lot more character development and focus on change rather than language. None of the characters, including the minor or supporting characters remain static; they all undergo some sort of change. This is definitely seen in the home with Lara Jean taking on the role Margot once had by looking after Kitty. Margot is initially the hard-headed practical character who does everything just as it should be done. No one ever sees her cry or crack under pressure. I said this book is about character development, so you can probably guess what changes Margot undergoes…
This book is about romance, yes. But there’s so much more than that. There are deep rooted feelings that and internal conflicts that each character must battle and overcome. There is friendship, family, school – all the little things that make high school one of the most bitter sweet time of one’s life. Special. That’s exactly what this book is. Special. It gives a portrait of teenage drama, sacrifice, and everything that adults call “part of being a teenager.” This book was funny, hearfelt and all together a delightfully quick read that I will happily recommend to any fangirl out there who would rather swoon over a fictional boy than a real one.
Reviews on P.S. I Still Love You and Forever and Always, Lara Jean coming up in the next few days so if you don’t want any spoilers I highly suggest you read this one now!
(Book image credits go to Goodreads)