Publisher: Simon &Schuster.
Hardcover, 368 pages.
Release date: April 15th 2014.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
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.
Have you ever written a letter to a crush?
I can’t say that I have, not exactly. Back in the days of my own all-consuming-teenage-crushes of which there were many (hey, I was fickle) I wrote in my journal to vent about the boys I crushed on from afar; there was the very hot older guy who only ever dated blondes (I’m a brunette), and the guy who just never wanted to take it to the next level of something actually happening between us even though he showed all the signs of being interested (or did I just imagine that?) Oh, and there was the ‘friend’ guy who I had everything in common with and who could have been something more, but never was. I realized years later that in that particular instance, I’d been friendzoned, or maybe he was just never interested in me in that way – a concept my teenage self never quite seemed to grasp. There was a lot of “whyyyyy isn’t this happening???” in my teenage journal. “Whyyyyy???” In any case, my point is, when I read back on these journals now, they are pretty funny, yes, but also pretty cringeworthy, and if they had fallen into the wrong hands way back when, boy, I would just about have died.
Welcome to Lara Jean Covey’s world. When the sixteen-year-old protagonist of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is ready to move on from a crush, she writes him a letter, which she then stores in her late mother’s hatbox. For Lara Jean, these letters are a form of closure, a way of saying goodbye and falling out of love. The letters are private; for Lara Jean’s eyes only and she most definitely never intends for the letters to end up in the hands of her former crushes. But, wouldn’t you know it, one day, Lara Jean’s hatbox goes missing, and the next, Peter K, Lara Jean’s first crush, approaches her at school, letter in hand. Lara Jean really doesn’t know how the letter came to be in Peter’s possession, but finding out how is the least of her worries, because another of her crushes, Josh, the sweet, dependable, a-little-bit-nerdy boy next door, also got one of her letters. The problem with Josh is that he’s Lara Jean’s older sister Margot’s long-term-boyfriend-turned-very-recent-ex. Also, while Lara Jean said goodbye to her crush on Josh a long time ago (because, sisters!) that crush has very recently, and very unfortunately, re-ignited.
Josh, still hurting from his break-up with Margot (who dissolved their relationship when she moved to Scotland for University) is confused as to why Lara Jean didn’t tell him about her crush way back before he got together with Margot. Lara Jean just doesn’t want to go there, and she needs to get Josh off the scent. So, she enlists Peter K. as her faux-boyfriend. Peter, a good-looking charmer who doesn’t take life too seriously is happy to go along with Lara Jean’s plan, mostly because he’s recently single and wants to make his ex jealous. Sounds like a plan. But the course of faux-love never did run smooth, and soon Lara Jean discovers that there’s more to hot lacrosse-player Peter K. than just eye-candy.
Ah, well, isn’t this book is just a bundle of love. Sweetly innocent, romantic, and all-round-feel-good To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before left me with a big, happy smile on my face. Jenny Han just gets it right. So right. Every time.
Unlike my teenage journal, though, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is not just all about boys. There is so much more to this book than you might think. Yes, it’s a sweet, romantic contemporary-coming-of-age-story, but it’s also about family, specifically sisters; the trials and tribulations of, the teasing and fallings-out, and the built in best-friendships-forever that many sisters share. Lara Jean, the middle-sister, looks up to her practically-perfect-in-every-way older sister Margot as her hero, and is always trying to live up to, but never quite meets, her high standards. Lara Jean herself reminded me a little of Belly Conkin from Han’s Summer series in that she is a little naïve for her years, but it’s a somehow endearing trait in her, just like it was with Belly. The star of the show, though, at least for me, is little sister Kitty. Wait until you meet her. Kitty has all the answers, all the best one-liners, wants a puppy more than anybody ever wanted a puppy ever, and boy, can she hold a grudge. Kitty reminded me of Tom’s wise-beyond-her-years-scene-stealing sister Rachel (Chloe Moretz) in (500) Days of Summer. You should totally watch that movie, by the way.
What else is there to say about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: great vintage clothes and grilled cheese and Christmas cookies and family dinners and hot tubs and kissing! This book, for me, was a pure pleasure reading experience; I cannot fault it and I could not get enough. Even better, I just recently discovered that this is not a standalone, and that there’s more to come. Yay! I’m already counting down the days to P.S. I Still Love You which releases next year. I can’t wait for more!