If you've read my blog before, you should know by now that I adore Jenny Han. Not only is she just a-freaking-dorable, she's also super sweet and obviously very talented. When I first saw the cover for this book, I knew I needed to read it as quickly as possible. I mean, how gorgeous is this book cover, right?
Also, the concept of the book was so intriguing. Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
I knew that if something like that ever happened to me when I was in high school, I would be absolutely devastated! That's pretty dang embarrassing to have personal letters sent out to people you loved before. She's lucky there were only five.
I'll just start by saying I wasn't the biggest fan of Lara Jean. She was 16-years-old, but sometimes, it felt like she was much younger. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that her older sister, Margo, was just one year older, and she served as a sort of mother figure for Lara Jean and their younger sister, Kitty, who was nine. Margo left for college at the beginning of the novel, and it was like Lara Jean was helpless. She didn't know how to take care of her sister or how to cook. She couldn't even drive. She was pretty childish and naive, and you didn't really see her grow out of that in the book.
The concept of having a crush on your sister's ex-boyfriend is also just foreign to me. There is an unspoken bond between sisters, and that is most definitely crossing the line. While, in Lara Jean's defense, she did have a crush on Josh first, it's still just not okay. Margot and Josh were in love, and even though she left to go to school, there's absolutely no justification for Lara Jean to do anything with Josh. That whole awkward love triangle just made me lose my taste for Josh. Even though he was perfect in every other way, I just couldn't swallow this.
When I think about it, I'm not sure that I really liked many of the characters in this book. Lara Jean's best friend, Chris, really wasn't much of a best friend at all. She was selfish and boy crazy and never really did anything to look out for Lara Jean at all. Chris didn't have the biggest role in this book, which was strange to me because she was supposed to be Lara Jean's best friend. The two of them were just so different, and Lara Jean never even opened up to Chris about anything. I just didn't see how the two of them could be best friends. I also didn't like Margo much. She was also pretty selfish, and when she came home to visit her family, she was a huge diva. I think she was a better mom-figure than she was a big sister.
One thing I loved about this book was its emphasis on family. Even though the Song sisters had problems, as do all siblings, I really liked that all three sisters were different, but respected and loved each other regardless of anything that happened between them. There were a few things that happened in this book that some people would find unforgivable, but the three of them somehow made it work. And the fact that I have two sisters - one older and one younger - made me appreciate that even more.
A reason Jenny Han is one of my favorite authors is because a lot of the main characters in her book are Asian. In this book, the Song sisters were all half-Korean and half-white. I read some reviews of this book that said that Jenny put too much of an emphasis on them being biracial, but being bi-racial myself, I just loved it! There are some things that people who aren't mixed race just don't understand, and Jenny really explains it perfectly and does a top notch job of incorporating little elements of being biracial into this book. She just gets it.
Even though the letters that Lara Jean writes is a huge concept in the book (obviously), I wish there was more emphasis on them. Two of the boys behind the letters are main characters in the book, but the other three are almost just mentioned in passing, with the exception of one that does come to a conclusion of sorts. I'm hoping that since this book is a trilogy, Lara Jean will get closure with each boy she writes a letter to.
While this book did cause me a lot of frustration and leave me with a lot of questions, I'm giving it a 4 out of 5. It was a quick read, and I think people who enjoy contemporary YA romance will enjoy this book. I'm really looking forward to the two books that are to follow. I'm hoping that...
1) we'll see some growth in Lara Jean. I feel like she was acting like she was 14 in this novel.
2) there will be more emphasis on the two letters that didn't get much attention.
3) Lara Jean will make new friends. Chris was a horrible best friend, and Lara Jean just needs to get rid of her and find other friends elsewhere, or Chris needs to step it up.