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

I had never expected this to be “my” kind of book. I’d seen the title a million times on the shelves (virtual and otherwise) and it never appealed to me. I was expecting a sappy, melodramatic teen romance. How wrong I was!

It was actually the ad for the Netflix movie that compelled me to read this. The story line was so corky and hilarious that I knew I had to look up the book. From the first page about the Song sisters, I was hooked.

There are three sisters in all: practical, perfectionist Margot; spitfire nine-year-old Kitty; and dreamy-eyed Lara Jean, our sixteen-year-old narrator. All three sisters are in love with their next-door neighbor, Josh. But Josh is Margot’s boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend. She broke up with him because she’s leaving the country for college. And he remains off-limits to Lara Jean, even though she liked him first.

Sweet, whimsical, quirky Lara Jean is the kind of girl who wears suspenders with shorts, bakes cupcakes from scratch, and makes scrapbooks for fun. A romantic at heart, she treasures an old hatbox from her deceased mother in which she keeps love letters she’s written to every boy she’s ever had a crush on. Five in all. They are even addressed, but she’ll never send them. They’re for her eyes only.

…Until they’re not, because someone sends them. One by one, to Lara Jean’s utmost horror, each boy receives his letter and confronts her. To save face and avoid total humiliation, she becomes entangled in a harebrained “fake” relationship with cocky school stud, Peter Kavinsky. Lara Jean pretends to be his girlfriend so that her sister’s ex won’t think she still likes him, and Peter is hoping to make his ex-girlfriend jealous so that she’ll want him back. But fake dates and fake kisses start to feel a lot like real ones, and suddenly Lara Jean is in way over her head.

I loved Lara Jean. I loved the way this book was written. I loved the relationships between the sisters – it was sort of like if Stephanie Perkins had written Shanghai Girls. It goes hand-in-hand with books like Anna and the French Kiss or, to a lesser degree, Alterations by Stephanie Scott. Lara Jean and Peter’s dynamic reminded me a lot of Charlie and Micah in Chantal Gadoury’s The Songs in Our Hearts. I almost wished the author would’ve gone Poisonwood Bible on us and given us a few chapters from the other sisters’ perspectives.

This is a spectacularly-written book, which is why I only wished that the ending had been stronger. It did surprise me, but it didn’t totally commit and give me that full-circle satisfaction. I wished it could’ve stood on its own and wouldn’t require reading two additional books to get the whole romance. Lara Jean was so adorable, this book was totally on par with and even about to surpass my love for Anna and the French Kiss, until the ending just kind of fizzled and we didn’t get that pivotal John Hughes moment the whole book seemed to be leading up to. That aside, this was an engaging and laugh-out-loud hilarious read. Jenny Han’s writing style is totally enjoyable and I would pick up another one of her books anytime.

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