Monday, October 28, 2019

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1)
By Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster BFYR
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Lara Jean’s life is about to change in some big ways—the start of a new school year and the departure of her beloved older sister for college abroad in Scotland. Nothing can prepare Lara Jean, however, for the horror of seeing the secret letters she’s written to every boy she’s loved somehow mailed out to the recipients. In an equally bizarre twist, Lara Jean finds herself pretending to be the girlfriend of one of the addressees, Peter Kavinsky. At first she thinks she’s long over him, but as their supposedly fake relationship continues, Lara Jean realizes that she just might want it to be real.

Review: Once again, I’m way behind the curve in reading a massively popular book, in this case Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. This book had been on my radar even before the release of the equally popular Netflix adaptation, in part thanks to the gorgeous cover. I don’t read much contemporary and so didn’t make this much of a priority read until Twitter exploded with all the love for the film. And then it still took me a while to finally read the book.

Seeing all of that love for the movie on social media made me feel like I already knew Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky before reading a single page. It took reading maybe five pages to fall in love with MC Lara Jean’s narrative voice. It was instantly engaging, and I also loved the immediate sense of closeness between her and her sisters. When the novel opens, eldest sister Margot is preparing to head off to college in Scotland, leaving Lara Jean to step up to being a mother figure for their younger sister, Kitty. Margot took on the role of looking after her sisters and their father a few years before after the death of their mother. Taking on more family responsibilities, having her sister in another country, and starting a new school year end up being the least of Lara Jean’s worries, though, when something unthinkable happens. The letters she’s written to every boy she’s loved and keeps hidden in a hatbox her mother gave her somehow get mailed to each boy.

Enter Peter Kavinsky, a past love of Lara Jean’s and therefore the recipient of one of her letters. In order to do damage control with another letter recipient, Lara Jean enters into a pact with Peter to fake being a couple, an arrangement that benefits Peter, too. At first Lara Jean finds him to be true to his reputation around school—arrogant, egotistical, and the kind of guy who eats the last slice of pizza. Peter is also pretty unfiltered and unapologetic about it, which may not appeal to everyone, but which I often found hilarious.

Part of Lara Jean’s growth in the novel is discovering that there’s more to Peter K.’s handsome face and too-cool-to-care attitude. He does, in fact, care about a lot of things. I thought that Lara Jean’s character development was well done. She can be petty and even mean at times and makes some less than wise decisions, but she has the self-awareness to call herself out.

I was very much enjoying this book until the end. I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with how things were left. I’m not into Hallmark Channel Christmas movie-perfect endings, but I felt this one could have some more closure, even if it is the first book in a series. On the upside, now I absolutely have to read the sequel to see if my questions are answered.

All in All: I typically don’t go for contemporary YA romance, but this was a sweet, winning read. Perfect if you love breezy novels like Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss.

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