Title: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before [#1]
Author: Jenny Han
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
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.
First off, thank you Simon and Schuster and GoodReads First Reads for the ARC !
Second, this is my first time reading anything by Jenny Han, even though I own all her books, even the ones that are half hers (the pile continues its growth). While I’ve heard good things, I’ve never been quite sure of her books (my sister enjoyed them, but also said that there’s something missing from her novels). Honestly, though, I wasn’t disappointed by her books – if anything surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.
The concept of this novel was great. I really liked the whole idea of these love letters, getting sent out into the world, seen by the eyes of those who were never meant to see them. I also was pleased to see that it wasn’t just romance focused, but also family focused. There was a lot about sisterly relationships, parental relationships, and romantic relationships and I think that Han did a great job of integrating them with each other.
That being said, I didn’t love Lara Jean’s voice in the novel. Everyone else was, for the most part, believable, but Lara Jean’s thoughts streamed through like that of a hyperactive 13 year old. I understand that she was supposed to be the floofy, head in the clouds kind of character, but my goodness. By the time I found out that she was a junior in high school (i.e. was in grade 11), I had checked back multiple times, wondering if her age had been mentioned previously because she wasn’t as old as I thought she was supposed to be. Turns out she was. As a character who lost her mother at a young age, and was given the joint role of taking care of her little sister, she really didn’t grow up faster. She also had an unhealthy obsession with her older sister. Margot this, Margot that, I was quite tired of Margot by the end of this book and she was only there for maybe an eighth of the novel. Margot was also a condescending, control-freak type sister who I really didn’t enjoy reading about, though at least she acted her age…
Also, while I’m all for books that star characters that are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. (I mean, I’m a Chinese-Canadian obsessed with J-Pop, K-Pop, and J/K/M/C/T-dramas, I am down with diversity), Han pushed it a lot in this novel. I got it, her family is half-Korean, half-American. But I’m reminded of that fact every few chapters. I love the diversity, but I wish that it was less forced, less… just less.
Aside from the juvenile narrative, I did enjoy the scatterbrained-ness of Lara Jean. The narrative seemed like real thoughts, as she kept jumping back and forth: this happened and then, oh! remember that time when, -back to the present-. It was realistic, in that sense, as we really don’t pay that much attention to detail in real life, unless we make a conscious effort. That was definitely something I loved about the narrative. Also, with regards to Lara Jean’s character, I did like that she, for the most part, faced the whole letter issue head on.
Moving past the MC, I really liked all the other characters. Peter’s character development throughout the story was nice, sweet, and relatively subtle. Josh was very… up and down with his decisions and feelings, but all in all, I have to say that Kitty was my favourite character. For a 9-10 year old, she was basically the voice of reason within this novel. I liked her relationship with everyone, how she was a fluid character who went with the flow, but still had a great personality and voice in the novel. I also love Lucas, he made me happy, even though he was rarely seen in the books, he made for a great friend.
The plot began with Lara Jean’s life. Readers get to understand who Lara Jean is, what her family dynamics are like, who her friends are, and where all her relationships stand, in the first few chapters, before the letters get sent out. I really liked that, as it gave me the opportunity to be eased into her life and become comfortable with it before the drama began. Something that I really liked though was that she didn’t get with the person I thought she would be with at the beginning of the story. The plot evolved and the characters evolved as the book progressed and it was nice to be pleasantly surprised.
All in all, I enjoyed the book. Was I blown away? No. I agree that something is missing
like a satisfying, we-all-lived-happily-ever-after end, but I can’t figure out what it is. Overall, Han’s writing is great, though her MC needs to mature a few years, I really liked the way the story was told and the thoughts conveyed. While I feel like this book doesn’t need a sequel, I’m interested to see what Han does in P.S. I Still Love You. Also, I’d just like to mention that I quite like this cover, especially with the detailing in the title, with the whole permanent marker look. It really caught my eye when I first saw it.
World Building: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.18/5
ARC obtained via Simon and Schuster Canada via GoodReads First Reads.