Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Trilogy
Rating: 4 Stars
Dear fellow Babblers,
The trilogy, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a very unnecessary, extremely typically romance about boy meets girl – long story short: boy and girl fall in love – happily ever after So whats up with Delphine’s high rating? Umm… no one who has not read any of the books of the series will understand.
This trilogy is everything a girl, guy, teenager, fangirl/boy, bibliophile could ever ask for in a coming-of-age romance! Humor, drama, romance carry the reader through Lara Jean’s most transformative years of high school. Jenny Hann brings a delicately light end to the series, leaving smiles, heartaches, and ooos and ahhs just as she did in the two that preceded this one.
Good Reads Review:
Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.
Life couldn’t be more perfect!
At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.
Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?
This last book of the series came about unexpectedly and was never really in Han’s plans. I liked this one, but definitely not to the extent that I loved the previous two books.
Lara Jean and Peter are well into their senior year of high school and neither seems able to look towards the future without including the other in his or her vision. Peter is guarenteed a spot at the University of Virginia, thanks to a lacrosse scholarship – no worries there. Lara Jean, unlike her sister Margot who went all the way to St. Andrews in Scotland for college, wants to stay in state. She stresses, worries, and anticipates her acceptance into UVA so she can be close to home and able to see Peter every day. Lara Jean has her entire life planned out and expects it all to go according to her expectations. But, of course, that is simply not the case.
I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that the whole “Lara Jean doesn’t get into UVA” tragedy is what’s supposed to be identified as the plot. This is really what drives all the other events of the book, anyway. I hate to be brutal, but I’m kind of glad that Lara Jean didn’t end up getting into the same school as Peter. This allowed Lara Jean and Peter to reevaluate their relationship and really grow as a couple, not just high school sweethearts. It’s no longer just about cute notes tucked into each other’s lockers and making out in hot tubs that determines the future of their relationship: it is the future itself. Lara Jean looks at location being influential of her destiny. At least, that’s her initial perception…
The novel really focuses on Lara Jean and Peter, and there’s very little that happens that does not have something to do with the couple’s relationship. Everything that happens from Lara Jean’s father’s marriage with Mrs. Rothschild to Lara Jean’s cookie-baking obsession leads back to the relationship. What I’m really trying to get at here is that this last book definitely did have a plot, and sure, it was a bit nuanced, but it was nonetheless present.
There are scenes of prom, the infamous senior trip to New York, and the end-of-the-year beach bash. I was really touched in the scene where Lara Jean “wants” to be intimate with Peter, but despite the temptation he must have felt, knew it wasn’t the right time for either of them. That showed compassion and Peter’s true character as a boyfriend whose feelings for his girlfriend dive a lot deeper than the surface. In the beginning of the series, Peter comes off as cocky and condescending – your typical high school jock. But this last book illustrates the delicate heart that beats inside this seemingly arrogant “player..” Peter’s devotion to Lara Jean is beautifully illustrated and at times seems almost raw.
While the previous two books were funny and quick, I feel as though this last one was so much more. Each and every character, including Kitty, grows and is written in a way that the reader can easily relate with. There is no awkward dialogue or moments where I was like “umm, okay… That is just not done, like ever.” The story really flowed from the first two and gave a fluid panorama of high school in the ways that we, as adults remember it: drama, relationships, college, trouble.
Han’s writing style is very simplistic and not at all over or underdone. Her words, descriptions and dialogues never stray from the varying themes of the story and always bring about a vivid scene in my mind. The romance, family dynamic, and theme of self discovery in the trilogy is evocatively represented in a way that made me feel as though I was a part of the story. There were several pauses in narration, but that did not at all distract me from the story world because this last book of the series, unlike the two previous, was really about emotion and personal growth. An accurate portrait of such is impossible without the reader being able to enter the mind of its characters. Han does this with various scenes that Lara Jean steps back from situations and makes herself a priority. This is most evident towards the end of the book when, upon briefly breaking up with Peter, she falls into his arms yet again – an adorable conclusion to an overall pleasant trilogy.
Like I said in the beginning, this trilogy is by no means a “must read” but it’s just one of those titles’ that almost instantaneously lure you in and do not let go until you are smiling from ear-to-ear. While not much happens in this last book, I think it was better that way. It answered all the lingering questions and doubts that I still had from the previous two books such as the devotion of Peter to Lara Jean and the probability of the couple remaining together. This would not have been done as well if Han would have added more action and less “writing.” Always and Forever, Lara Jean is less of a conclusion to the trilogy and more of an explanation for the duology. I think this nuance really helped me to understand the characters better and look at the story more in terms of a panorama of young love and less of a coming-of-age romance. It’s wrong to say that absolutely nothing happens in this book! You really have to have read the first two in order to really understand what I mean when I say that the third, quite literally, supports the first two. We get very little emotion and character growth in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You – it’s all just drama, drama and more drama. This last book slowed down a lot and took a step back. I loved the feeling that I was following Lara Jean through her last year of high school and almost there with her as she made important decisions and took steps towards her future.
Feeling like I’m a part of the story and not just an inactive and passive reader is a big deal for me when it comes to reading and reviewing. There were rarely moments here that I felt like an outcast and disengaged. I was present from the very first page and even now that I’m finished, I’m not yet ready to say goodbye. I’ve grown to love these characters and am so happy that an author has taken the risky decision to illustrate the typical high school life. But does so in the most unique, fun and overall quirky way. That in itself gives reason to rate Always and Forever, Lara Jean a solid 4 Stars.