Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 15th 2014
Lara Jean 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 can pour out her heart and soul and say 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.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
Lara-Jean lives a quiet life. She is content spending time at home baking in the evening when her school friends are out partying, and she is content spending most of her time with her older sister Margot and Margot’s boyfriend Josh. Despite having never had a boyfriend herself Lara-Jean has been in love, and when she wants to say to goodbye to whatever feelings she harbours she writings them a love letter; something never meant to be sent but hidden away in a hatbox her mother gave her.
However when Peter, who was one of her letter recipients, comes up to her one day referring to the things Lara-Jean wrote about him, things he shouldn’t know, she races home and discovers her hatbox is missing and all the letter she wrote with her private thoughts have been sent to the five boys she wrote them to. One of whom being her sister’s boyfriend Josh.
Desperate to avoid the tension between her and Josh now Margot has dumped him and left for Scotland to attend university Lara Jean mentions she has a boyfriend, and points out Peter as he walks down the hall. Together the two come up with a contract for a fake relationship that benefits both of them. For Lara Jean it’s to ensure that Josh gets the message that whatever feelings she had for him are in the past, and for Peter it’s to make his ex girlfriend, and Lara Jean’s ex best friend, jealous.
Of course as Lara Jean and Peter start ‘dating’ things turn out to be more complicated than what they originally thought. The more time Lara Jean spends with Peter, the more he fits seamlessly into her life, the more she starts question what about their relationship is real and what is a show for Gen and Josh.
Lara Jean is a really innocent character, and I think at times she came across as a little naive, however I really liked her development. Instead of going out to parties with her school friends Lara Jean would prefer to stay at home baking, or do volunteer work at the old people’s home. Though she’s been in love before Lara Jean has never had a boyfriend; her focus has been on her family and it was really interested reading the dynamics between the three Song girls. With her older sister moving all the way to Scotland for university Lara Jean picks up a lot of the slack with looking after her younger sister, Kitty. Things changed for the three sisters, gradually throughout the story, as their roles within their family changed.
I loved reading Lara Jean’s relationship with the people outside of her family as well; her friendship with Chris and her old friendship with Gen which turned sour as the two grew apart, and also her relationships, no matter how small, with all the boys she wrote letters to.
Peter seemed like a stereotypical jock at first glance, teasing Lara Jean in a way that’s both light-hearted and a little cruel. He’s the most popular boy in school, and everyone seems to love him but he has his hidden depths that we don’t really discover until Lara Jean does. Peter has only even been with Gen so the label of ‘player’ doesn’t really fit him.
Although the ‘relationship’ between Lara Jean and Peter began as a fake one it did start to develop into more, which will probably come as a surprise to no one, but I couldn’t really get invested in it. I thought they were good friends, but I couldn’t really see what was happening between them that showed their deeper feelings for one another. There was still a lot between them; the letters Lara Jean sent out to the other boys and Peter’s ex Gen who he never fully pulled away from. I’m not saying their relationship was rushed, because it wasn’t, I just didn’t notice the feelings growing between them and it felt a little forced in my mind.
The relationship Lara Jean has with her family, mainly her sisters, was one of my favourite parts of this story. A lot of the time in YA books the family seem to be pushed to one side for the main characters development but this wasn’t the case in To All the Boys I Loved Before. When her sister leaves for Scotland the dynamics change between her and Lara Jean; it felt so real because sometimes, no matter how close a family is, there are forces beyond our control that can tear siblings apart a little.
There was a potential in this book to build a love triangle, either between Margot, Lara Jean and Josh or Peter, Lara Jean and Josh, but it was never developed. Lara Jean respected the relationship between her sister and Josh and did everything she could to move on from her feelings for him. I feel the situation could have been exploited as a cheap way to create tension but it wasn’t and I felt that was refreshing to see.
I’m not going to talk too much about the setting for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, after all in a contemporary book what is there to really say. Take any town in America and you pretty much got the whole picture. What I did like about this book was all the references to Lara Jean’s Korean heritage. Even though they lost their mother at a young age Lara Jean’s father works hard to keep her and her sisters in touch with that part of their culture; he cooks Korean food for them, though admittedly not well, and they all celebrate Korean thanksgiving with their extended family. It’s not a major part of the story by any means but it was nice to see a character who embraces their roots, and whose heritage is still a big part of their lives. I’m not Korean and I have no knowledge of the customs or culture but I do think it was well represented in this book.
I wouldn’t say I loved this book, don’t get me wrong I enjoyed it but there were a few little issues I had with the development of the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter I couldn’t seem to get past. Still To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a really enjoyable read, even when I was worried about the direction the story could potentially go in (see the potential love triangle with Lara Jean and Josh).
What did you think of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.