May 7, 2014Jenny Han
Published by Simon and Schuster's Books for Young Readers Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Title: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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.
We all cope with unrequited love in different ways – denial, anger, embarrassment… Lara Jean’s method just happens to be a bit more liberating, in a sense. She writes. She writes down her feelings for these boys, anything that she wants to say to their faces but can’t find the heart to do so – and she locks up these letters in a blue box passed down to her from her mother. And then those feelings disappear. There are five letters in total: one to her sister’s first love, one to a boy who moved away, one to a misunderstood boy, a boy from summer camp, and one to the boy who stole her first kiss.
So you can understand her utter panic and disbelief when Peter Kacvinsky, her first kiss, approaches her at her locker and gently turns down her affections and interest, claiming that he received her letter in the mail. Worried of the potential loss of Josh’s friendship, her sister’s exboyfriend who has become close to Lara Jean’s family, Peter and Lara come to an agreement – to fake date. For Lara, this means that Josh will acknowledge that her feelings for him are a thing of the past. For Peter, it means he can keep his ex-girlfriend at bay. But things are never that easy when feelings are involved, and the release of these letters may change everything for Lara Jean.
I began this book a couple hours after I finished the last exam of my second year of university, and I enjoyed it so much that Isped through it in the span of a few hours. Jenny Han regains her title as the queen of YA contemporary with To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. It has the perfect combination of fluffy, relatability, and swoonworthiness that you come to expect with YA contemporary novels. I adored the characters and the dynamics between them, most especially between the Song sisters. I also really liked Peter. Add him to my book boyfriend list as soon as possible, I just hope to see character growth on his part in part two of this story. Josh was great too, I could sense how much he cared for Lara Jean and her family and I appreciated his efforts to still maintain those relationships despite his breakup with Margot.
As a girl approaching the end of my teenage years and have had my fair share of crushes and relationships, I can easily appreciate a story like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. It can be difficult to be a teenager, the media doesn’t give us enough credit for it. You learn a lot from your firsts – your first love, your first heartbreak, your first relationship (sure, even a fake one) – and you can easily see this with Lara Jean. She goes through the phases of high school romance, and it’s difficult to trust your instincts when your head and heart are at war all the time – so yeah, she makes mistakes. A lot of them. But I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Mistakes will never define you as a person, they make you a better version of yourself and with each one you are a better person than you were before. And that’s big with this story, and with Lara Jean and these boys that she’s loved throughout her life.
Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is really, really good. And I definitely look forward to the second instalment (P.S. I Love You in 2015). I will surely look towards her future writing. And for those who appreciate young adult contemporary and perspective of a teenage girl, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is definitely worth looking into.