Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books
Published: April 15th 2014
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all…
I picked up this book with very, very high expectations. With a title and description like that, why wouldn’t you? I envisioned a deep, complicated romance, with high character profiles and lots of drama. Although probably my fault for not trying a sample first (perks of having an ereader), this book did not meet my expectations whatsoever. I wouldn’t class this as my kind of book (there are some annoying spelling mistakes for a start), but I did enjoy some parts. As it goes, I was really pleased with the ending, and how it leads on to the next book in the series – however, I will not be reading it in a hurry.
Unlike The DUFF (reviewed here) I didn’t find this story typical or relatable. Instead, I found the main character immature – no doubt because she was only 16 (who had fallen in love FIVE times?!) – and annoying. I found that Lara Jean was a protagonist who should not be admired, although she admits that herself, and is almost an example of how not to handle one’s emotions. The pain that this family have endured through the loss of their mother is touched upon, but I feel that a bit more depth could have really helped the protagonist character and the reader understand why she deals with situations in the ways that she does. There could have been some deep-seated fear of abandonment, or fear of losing loved ones, that the author could have touched upon to help the reader engage with Lara Jean a bit more.
I did not like Josh, playing the two sisters off in the way that he did, nor the way in which Lara Jean was so incapable that her nine-year-old sister had to style her hair. But Kitty, said nine-year-old, was definitely my favourite character of the book. Some aspects of the relationship between Lara Jean and Kitty, especially the way in which they bickered, seemed the realest elements of this story. Another character that I particularly liked was Chris. Although she didn’t feature quite as much as I would have liked, I did like how she was related to Genevieve, who is depicted as the antagonist. It almost gave the story a twist, which I was constantly waiting for.
Despite all of this, I did finish this book in one sitting. It was an easy read, and there were moments that made me laugh and smile. Whilst others made me cringe, for example Lara Jean’s kiss with Peter in the hallway. But in a way, high school is the only time where we can do cringey things like that and get away with them. I also liked her comment of British people drinking absinthe in pubs and the references to Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. Peter, Lara Jean’s fake boyfriend, also warmed to me with the different ways that he treated Lara Jean, and a particular comment made by him which seemed a bit ironic in the whole story:
“How would I even know what that [love] felt like? I’m seventeen, for God’s sake”