Thursday, January 8, 2015

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Title: To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 288
Rating: 5 Cows

Goodreads Description:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han took me completely by surprise.  I’ll be brutally honest for just a second here; I had this book pegged as your typical run-of-the-mill high school romance YA novel.  Am I making sense here?  I hope so.  When I first heard of this book, it was this year at a YA book conference I went to in Illinois.  One of the girls I met and hung out with at the conference recommended this to me after we attended an author panel that Jenny Han was on.  When I bought books before leaving that weekend, I picked this one up and got in line to have Jenny Han sign it.  While this book wasn’t something I’d typically pick up on my own, I am always open to suggestions and recommendations from other book lovers, and if someone is truly adamant about a specific book, then I’ll usually give it a go.  As I was standing in line to meet Jenny though, I had my reservations.  Everyone in front of me had to be 16 or younger, and they were all screaming about how great the book was and how they couldn’t decide whether Lara Jean should pick Peter or Josh. I thought, great another love triangle trope. I almost got out of line right then and there.

Needless to say after I got home that weekend from the conference, this book wasn’t one of the first ones I picked up and started reading.  It sat for quite some time.  Until one day I read a review by another blogger that absolutely RAVED about it.  I begrudgingly picked it up and gave it a go.  And BOY AM I GLAD I DID.

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” has got to be one of the cutest books I’ve read in a long time.  It’s about Lara Jean, whose older sister, Margot, has just left to attend college in Scotland.  At a young age their mom died, and since then Margot has become a mother figure to her little sisters Lara Jean and Kitty.  When Margot leaves, Lara Jean is forced to take on extra responsibilities and not depend so much on other people.  This book is about how she handles these new responsibilities, as well as how she deals with the boys in her life.  Lara Jean used to write letters to all the boys she fell in love with, and hid the letters in a hat box her mom gave her.  One day one of her old crushes approaches her about a letter he received in the mail from her, and she finds out her hat box is gone, along with all its contents.  Someone mailed all her letters to the boys she’s been in love with.

One of my favorite characters in the book was Lara Jean.  She is extremely hilarious without meaning to be, and I found myself really relating to her as I was reading “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.”  The thing is, Lara Jean was so mature and thoughtful for her age, that she had me questioning many of my own beliefs and thoughts.  She reminded me a lot of myself at that age, and I think many girls can relate to what Lara Jean is going through.  One of my other favorite characters was Peter, who brings out a side of Lara Jean that she didn’t even know existed.  I really liked watching their relationship develop throughout the book.  They were the perfect example of the saying - opposites attract – and I loved how honest they got to be with each other over time.  My favorite scene between them is when Peter asks Lara Jean why she’s never had a boyfriend before, to which she replied:

It’s scary when it’s real.  When it’s not just thinking about a person, but, like, having a real live person in front of you, with, like, expectations. And wants.

Lara Jean spent a lot of time dreaming about her crushes and writing these letters to them, but she was always too shy to do anything about it.  I think a lot of people can relate to this though, especially the part about the expectations.  It’s a scary thought that someone might learn to depend on you, and expect things from you, and I was impressed that at such a young age, Lara Jean was already picking up on this.  There is another point she brought up in the book that I really loved, about one of her fears.  As she’s thinking more about what Peter asked her, she realizes part of her issue stems from her fear of falling out of love.  Or more specifically, someone falling out of love with her.  She believes that’s one of the scariest parts of falling in love, to think that someone you loved so deeply, could one day stop caring for you.  And it’s a risk you have to take if you’re going to be in a relationship.

Overall, I thought Jenny Han’s writing was thought provoking and funny.  This combo made for a compelling read in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.”  Had I not bought all my best friends Christmas gifts already, this book would have been under all their trees this year.  I can not say enough good things about this book, and there will definitely be a reread in the future for me.  Now I have to wait all the way till June for the sequel! Let the countdown begin!



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