Sunday, May 18, 2014

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Genre: Contemporary YA

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Rating: 4

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.

I really wanted to love this book with a capital 'L.' I purchased a copy at my local Barnes and Noble because I was so freaking happy to see an Asian girl on the cover of a YA book. In fact, I think I did a little dance in the aisle. Plus, the premise sounded cute, and I've been in the mood to read something other than dark YA or fantasy.

My first stumbling block was Lara Jean, and stumbling is an apt word. When her older sister goes away to college, Lara Jean has to figure out how to fill Margot's very big footsteps. She needs to wrangle her littlest sister, reassure her father that everything is going smoothly, and navigate her way through her junior year. When her old love letters are "accidentally" mailed out, Lara Jean embarks on a complicated fake relationship with one boy in order to keep another boy (Margot's ex-boyfriend) from thinking that she still has feelings for him, even though she, umm, does. At times, Lara Jean seems much younger than sixteen, and very naive. 

This is a novel about first love, which it does well. But I feel that the most important relationship in this book is between Lara Jean and her older sister, Margot. The problem is that Margot is out of the country until the last few chapters. There are a few letters and an awkward video conference beforehand, but that's it. I love how the novel ends, but I wish Margot had more of a real presence. 

Other things I love? The very genuine way the Song girls struggle to get in touch with their Korean heritage (they're half Korean), especially when they don't get to see their Korean relatives often. Lara Jean has a few memories of dishes her mother used to cook, but that's about it. 
There are very limited options for Asian girls on Halloween. Like one year I went as Velma from Scooby-Doo, but people just asked me if I was a manga character. I even wore a wig! So now I'm committed to dressing up as Asian characters exclusively. 
This! This is so true!!

So ultimately Lara Jean endeared herself to me, and I did feel sad as I read the last few pages and closed the book. I'll definitely read the sequel, if one's in the works. 

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