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

Jenny Han, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, teen romance, ya, young adult, diversity, diverse books, sweet dreams, love, young hearts, book review, romance

This turned out to be a two-book, rather than a one-book review, as I decided to review both Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and its sequel P.S. I Still Love You. It was pretty much a no-brainer as the timeline between both books flowed seamlessly into each other with very little time elapsing between the two (give or take a few days). I’m still wondering if Jenny Han actually wrote both books as one giant book which she then split to appease the publishing industry’s maximum word count requirements!

Also, apologies/warning in advance –  there are quite a few spoilers in this review! I’m sorry about that! I usually try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but I can’t seem to help myself with this one.

After all the horror and gore of my Halloween reads, I thought it was definitely time to move on to something a little lighter. Cue To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before which I’ve seen pop up on so many bookstagram accounts and accompanied by so many favourable reviews! Also, it helped that I was idly wondering if any of my old high school teen romances aka the 80s Sweet Dreams series ever did, by the wildest off-chance, get uploaded as Kindle titles (hey, they’ve uploaded Nancy Drew on Kindle so you never know…). I typed into the Kindle searchbox the title of the first ever Sweet Dreams book I’ve ever read, P.S. I Love You, but Jenny Han’s P.S. I Still Love You popped up instead. And as they say the rest is history…

It really must be fate because To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You are pretty much everything I used to love about those old Sweet Dream books. Ah, that warm, butterflies-in-stomach glow of first love! Or second or third love, depending on how many crushes/boyfriends you’ve had in high school!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the high school romance story of Lara Jean Song Covey. Lara Jean has a habit of writing love letters to all the boys she’s had crushes on as a way of helping her get over them. She pours her entire heart into these letters, then seals them up and puts them away in a teal hatbox. She even addresses the envelopes, though she never actually posts them. (Big mistake, Lara Jean! Can you guess where this is going?!?)

Yup. One day, Lara Jean discovers her hatbox is missing and someone has mailed all her letters off to all the boys she used to love. Can we say Mortification City?!?! An older wiser person might be able to laugh it off, but let’s face it there is really nothing like the embarrassment of a high schooler. Even though I knew it was coming, I totally cringed when I read this part and I can’t imagine how terrible Lara must have felt! Worst still, one of those letters was to her older sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh, whom Lara still holds a small candle for.

To prove to Josh she’s not still into him, Lara strikes a deal with another former crush, Peter K, who also happens to be the school heartthrob (or something like that). Peter’s looking to make his ex-girlfriend jealous and, as mentioned earlier, Lara’s determined to prove to Josh she’s Just Not That Into Him so they decide to pretend they’re dating each other. Peter gets to save face, Lara gets to save face, everybody wins. But as Lara and Peter spend more time together in their pretend-relationship, Lara is surprised to find herself starting to develop feelings for Peter…

Can I just say, I heart this book so, so much. Yup, ‘heart’, there is no other way to describe my feelings for it! I love the Song girls and the cozy warmth of their family. Big sister Margot can be a tad annoying, but she means well and I totally get where she’s coming from. As for little sister Kitty – what a badass! She makes me laugh so much. And Peter K, well, he’s a total sweetheart. He really grew on me and at the end I was rooting so much for him and Lara to stay together that I was ready to rip Jenny Han apart if it didn’t happen!

I’d also just like it go on the record that I’m a fan of Lara Jean. I’ve seen reviews that complain she’s too naïve and silly but… I like her. I like how dreamy and silly she gets, and how strongly she feels in her teen crushes (come on, who hasn’t crushed so strongly in high school they thought the world would end if the romance wasn’t reciprocated?) and her struggle to stay as organised and reliable as Margot. I can totally identify with her on all those points! (Thank goodness I wrote no letters in teal hatboxes).

My only complaint about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the ending. I pretty much shrieked and almost threw my Kindle across the room but I stopped myself because I knew I needed to get online right away and buy the sequel! Obviously, you could see where Jenny Han was going with the ending but still… that reconciliation in the beginning of the second book between Lara and Peter? I’d much rather have that be the ending of the first book. What can I say? I needed to know for sure!

Now onto P.S. I Still Love You.

Jenny Han, PS I Still Love You, teen romance, ya, young adult, diversity, diverse books, sweet dreams, love, young hearts, book review, romance

I’m afraid I didn’t like this one as much as I liked the first. Sorry, it’s tough being the sophomore! Nevertheless, I still liked it a whole lot, and between To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You, I lost two whole days of productivity because I.just.had.to.keep.reading.

In P.S. I Still Love You, Lara and Peter are working out how to be a couple for real (I kind of groaned when she made them draw up a contract. C’mon, Lara). But things are a little rocky, especially when someone’s released a video of them kissing in the hot tub which makes it look like they’re having sex. Lara’s horrified and is certain this is the work of her archnemesis and Peter’s ex-girlfriend, the beautiful Genevieve. But Peter doesn’t believe her and worse still he keeps running back to Gen to comfort her because she’s in a bit of a ‘crisis.’ (C’mon, Peter. Seriously?)

All right. This is where we learn two wrongs don’t make a right. Lara Jean’s beginning to overreact way too much, plus everyone knows jealousy is never a good look. Also, it’s pretty obvious to everyone (including Lara Jean!!) how much Peter is into her. On the other hand – sorry, Peter, you and Gen are history, you gotta let her go. Something bad’s happened to her and you’re the only person who can be there for her? I thought Genevieve was this super popular person with a ton of friends! Why can’t those friends be there for her? Also, the idea that your ex gets a tad bit crazy and over-emotional and might very well need you on hand to comfort her every time she gets upset, well… that sends up a lot of red flags. Besides, let’s face it, if the shoe was on the other foot and Lara was constantly at Josh’s place, comforting him over some crisis or other, she’d never hear the end of it from Peter!

Also, to be honest, when I finally found out what Gen’s big secret was, I was completely underwhelmed. Maybe I’m heartless but I don’t think it was that big a deal that Peter needed to be there for Gen the way he did. It wasn’t like anyone died or anything!

There’s so much I like about both books. I love all the baked goods Lara Jean’s constantly making (how does she not get fat?!?). I love the interactions between LJ and Peter. I love Kitty (and fear her a little). In fact, I’d like Jenny Han to write a book featuring Kitty’s own high school romance! The Song Covey girls’ dad is a total sweetheart and I hope he’ll finally get his happy ending in the next book.

I’ll wrap things up with my final thoughts on John, who makes a brief appearance in the first book and gets a bigger role in the second. Again, spoiler alerts! While John seems very nice (and Jenny seems to be hinting that John will be the man Lara Jean ends up with in the future when they’re all grown up), I just don’t know. I don’t trust him. He’s just too nice and perfect. I have my suspicions.

Some final thoughts:

I hope we find out more about Chris in the third book. I feel like there’s a lot more to her that we don’t know about. I’d like to see her character fleshed out a bit more.

Also, Gen is so much crazy, I’m really surprised she hasn’t ended up in prison or therapy by now. If we were in an RL Stine book, she’d have plotted out the murders of Lara Jean and Peter, Kitty would have to hunt her sister’s killer down and Gen would most definitely be in prison. I almost wish we could see more of Gen’s redeeming qualities in the third book (surely she must have some if she had once been close to both LJ and Peter), if only to prove that she’s not eventually going to grow up to become Glenn Close in Single White Female.

I love Lara Jean’s vintage wardrobe. And all her kitsch vintage items. She’s kind of like a combination of Stacey and Claudia from The Babysitters’ Club!

Finally, the third book is out next year and I cannot wait for it! More Lara Jean and Peter K, please!

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