Title: To All The Boys I’ve Ever Loved Before (2014)
Author: Jenny Han
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 288 pages
Review: Lara Jean Song Covey keeps love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. Not love letters anyone else wrote for her—love letters she wrote for the boys that she has loved, love letters they were never meant to read. This is the story of when those letters were somehow accidentally mailed out, turning Lara Jean’s love life upside-down, inside-out and topsy-turvy.
The plot is fun and whimsical. Lara Jean has crushed on Josh, her sister’s boyfriend, since forever, never doing anything about it because he’s her sister’s boyfriend. Instead she writes a love letter, and when that love letter gets sent to him… all hell breaks loose. Except not, because Lara Jean insists that the letter is a thing of the past and tells him that she’s currently dating someone else that she really, really likes.
This ‘someone else’ is Peter Kavinsky, Lara Jean’s first kiss from grade school and also one of the lucky recipients of her love letter. Easygoing and charming, Peter is amused by Lara Jean’s problem and offers to pretend to date her. He can prove to his ex-girlfriend that he’s over her, and she can get Josh off her case. It’s the perfect arrangement, except when ex-lovers become all jealous, feelings start getting involved and lines are blurring.
To All The Boys I’ve Ever Loved Before talks about love—not only romantic love but also familial love. It talks about what it’s like to covet someone you know you can’t have, someone you know you shouldn’t have. It talks about what it’s like to miss someone but to find the distance even more cutting when they’re around. It talks about family and sisterhood, about growing up and taking responsibility for yourself, about choosing to love and taking risks.
I really enjoyed the relationship Lara Jean has with her sisters. Margot is the quintessential ‘eldest child’, always so driven and responsible. Kitty, the youngest, is a daredevil on her own, sneaky and funny and yet caring in her own way. It’s very rare that I love all of the characters in a book, and I do with this story… well, all but one: Genevieve, Peter’s ex-girlfriend. I’ll let you find out why yourself.
Speaking of Peter, however, I really, really like him. He’s brash, occasionally insensitive and slightly obnoxious the way teenager boys can sometimes be, but he’s kind. He’s patient. He cares for Lara Jean, and he’s not afraid to show it. He’s also not allergic to emotions the way some YA love interests can be. He sulks when he’s angry, plays hard to get when his ego is hurt, and charges right into it when he discovers what (or who) he actually wants. It’s endearing, and more than that, it’s pretty damn human.
To All The Boys I’ve Ever Loved Before is warm and heartfelt, with real people, real problems and real relationships. I’m not a big fan of the cliffhanger ending, but I can see why Han did it. I might be biased though because at the time of my reading, the sequel P.S. I Still Love You is already out, so I didn’t actually have to wait at all to read what happens next.