This book review of Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before gives you the details of this loveable and immersive young adult book. And because this is a book pairings blog “where books meet lifestyle,” I have also provided some quotes from the book and recommended pairings for more like it.
Review of Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Raise your hand if you never thought you would read a young adult novel about teenage angst. [Hand raises.] But, in To All the Boys I've Loved Before, I felt a heartfelt connection to the quirky, yearning and lovable Lara Jean, who is different from the characters of my teenage years because she is a diverse (half Asian), dealing with a major life issue (grief over the death of her mother) and of average popularity (not super popular or super nerdy -- two old and overdone stereotypes).
Raise your hand if you, too, were once a quirky and yearning teenager. [Bashfully raises a hand.]
Lara Jean is a teenager just slightly "outside the circle" at her high school. Yeah, me too. She pines for her older sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh, who is practically a member of her family.
And each day is a new mini-battle with her devilish little sister, Kitty. Her dad became a single father after her mom passed away, and introverted Lara Jean always has a reason to do something at home to avoid the unknown of the outside world. Again, me.
Lara Jean has loved five boys in her lifetime, and she wrote one love letter to each of them, including Josh, which she saved in a hatbox. After the letters are mysteriously mailed out, Lara Jean begins a fake relationship with one of the recipients, Peter, to distract her sister and Josh from the fact that she really loves Josh.
I found myself wondering how I would react if my own teenage journals were revealed to the subjects thereof. I am still cringing at the thought. But, when I was a pre-teen, we passed notes with code names for the boys we liked. If the teachers caught us, they posted them on the board for everyone to see, and the boys were left trying to decode who had a crush on whom. Code names, Lara Jean, code names!
Lara Jean's diversity is, quite simply, nice. She is a breath of fresh air and a relatable character for which any female reader can feel a real kinship, particularly those in their awkward teen years. Ahh, belonging. That which we all want.
Lara Jean grows throughout the story and learns to live life with her heart and face her fears, something from which we can all learn. As a grown, married woman who was once "there," I could sigh a breath of relief for her as the story progressed.
At the end of the day, To All the Boys I've Loved Before is a light read that will have you reminiscing about your teenage years, but will also impart wisdom about diversity, feeling comfortable in your own skin, growing up and grief in fresh, youthful ways. I sincerely wish I had Lara Jean in my own life as a teen and, for that reason, I know she can also change someone else's life.
Quotes from To All the Boys I've Loved Before
When someone's been gone a long time, at first you save up all the things you want to tell them. You try to keep track of everything in your head. But it's like trying to hold on to a fistful of sand: all the little bits slip out of your hands, and then you're just clutching air and grit.
Love is scary: it changes; it can go away. That's the part of the risk. I don't want to be scared anymore.
Life doesn't have to be so planned. Just roll with it and let it happen.
It's not like in the movies. It's better, because it's real.
I don’t have to be so afraid of good-bye, because good-bye doesn’t have to be forever.
There's no use in asking what if. No one could ever give you the answers.
I see the difference now, between loving someone from afar and loving someone up close. When you see them up close, you see the real them, but they also get to see the real you.
For more like To All the Boys I've Loved Before:
- Read the next two books in the series (P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean).
- Watch Lara Jean in all three book adaptations on Netflix.
- I also love how the Netflix show Never Have I Ever subtly portrays diversity and grief in comedy, through the eyes of teenagers -- it's brilliant.
- Read more of the best Asian American (AAPI) books.
- Lastly, With the Fire on High presents another diverse, likable teenage voice that feels like a real friend.
I sincerely hope this book review of Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before inspires you to pick up this sweet, beloved young adult book.