Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before
By: Jenny Han
Published By: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Page Count: 355
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
I love Jenny Han's work. Her novels are like Pringles - I can't have just one. Also, much like the aforementioned snack food, I gobble them down quickly. I wish I could read Han's novels slowly and savor the amazing things she does with her characters, but alas it's just not possible.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before is wonderful for many reasons. First, I loved that there was such a huge emphasis on the relationship between sisters. As the middle child, the main character, Lara Jean, has the unique perspective of trying to emulate her older sister, Margot, while trying to set a good example for her younger sister, Kitty. Being the middle child (so I hear) is not an easy experience, but Lara Jean seems to thrive in her role for the most part. The dynamic between Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty was something that kept me reading and set this novel apart.
In many ways, the bond between these sisters was reminiscent of the relationships in Little Women, a classical favorite of mine. These girls love each other dearly but that doesn't mean that the course of their lives always runs smoothly. Margot heads off to college in Scotland at the beginning of the novel so the majority of what we know of her is learned from the memories of Lara Jean. Margot, like Meg from Little Women, is the steadfast and organized one. She knows what needs to be done to keep things running smoothly and she plays mother to her younger sisters once their own mother passes away. Lara Jean has a bit of Josephine March lurking in her veins, but she lacks Jo's tomboyish ways and outgoing nature. Lara Jean does share Jo's passion for writing and a strong friendship with the boy next door. Lastly, Kitty is perhaps the one that immediately brought to mind the Little Women parallel as she is Amy incarnate. Like Amy, Kitty is headstrong and passionate. There are moments when Kitty is so annoying that it makes you want to scream and others when she becomes so endearing you wish she was your little sister. I'm not sure if Han intended for their to be allusions to Little Women or if I arrived at this all on my own, but regardless, I loved the novel all the more for the connections my brain created.
In addition to the sisterly relationships, I also enjoyed the plot. Lara Jean is the quiet, introspective one who rarely lets her feelings leave her heart. Rather than telling people how she feels, she writes letters. These letters allow her to get her feelings out in the open so that she can move past them. Lara Jean treasures her letters and stores them in a hatbox given to her by her beloved mother. One day the unthinkable happens and every letter written to a boy in Lara Jean's heart is sent. This sets Lara Jean on a path she never thought possible and opens up doors she would have never entered on her own. I loved watching Lara Jean explore outside of her comfort zone. Her friendship with Peter is not only one of the driving forces in the book, but also serves as a reminder that appearances can be deceiving.
One thing I also expect from a Han novel is watching a girl who is unsure of herself find firm footing in life. I loved watching the evolution of Lara Jean. This girl still has some growing to do, but I know that she will continue to evolve in the next novel, P.S. I Still Love You. That one can't get here soon enough since I found the ending of this one to be unsatisfying and cliffhangerish.
One Last Gripe: Josh's behavior in certain parts of the book really bothered me. He seemed so wishy washy.
Favorite Things About This Book: The banter between Lara Jean and Peter and multi-cultural characters
First Sentence: I like to save things.
Favorite Character: Lara Jean
Least Favorite Character: Chris
Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them... all at once?
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.