Thursday, September 6, 2018

Book Review: "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has written five love letters. There is one letter for every boy she's ever fallen in love with, however brief the infatuation. But she never sent any of the letters to the objects of her affection—she saves them in one of her most prized possessions, a teal hatbox her mother gave her before she died.

"They're not love letters in the strictest sense of the word. My letters are for when I don't want to be in love anymore. They're for goodbye. Because after I write my letter, I'm no longer consumed by my all-consuming love. I can eat my cereal and not wonder if he likes bananas over his Cheerios too; I can sing along to love songs and not be singing them to him. If love is like a possession, maybe my letters are like my exorcisms. My letters set me free. Or at least they're supposed to."

While Lara Jean has loved five boys, she's never had a boyfriend. She's been kissed a few times (mainly in 7th or 8th grade), but she's always been content to watch from the sidelines, even play third wheel to her older sister Margot and her boyfriend Josh (on whom Lara Jean has always had a bit of a crush). But when Margot goes to Scotland for college, Lara Jean suddenly must start taking more responsibility for helping her dad and her younger sister, while buckling down for the all-important junior year of school.

But everything changes in a split second when somehow, Lara Jean's love letters get sent to their intended recipients. Suddenly she finds herself having to confront her feelings, in many cases feelings that had long since dissipated. Yet in an effort to uncomplicate things, she actually makes things even more complicated, and she realizes that there's a fine line between pretending how you feel and really feeling. And either way, someone is bound to get hurt in the crossfire.

"I don't want to be afraid anymore. I want to be brave. I to start happening. I want to fall in love and I want a boy to fall in love with me back."

I haven't seen the Netflix series based on the book, but I really enjoyed To All the Boys I've Loved Before. It's charming, sweet, poignant, funny, even frustrating at times—just like the teenage years. This is one of those books with a lot of heart, one you want to keep reading even though you pretty much know how the plot will unfold, and you don't really care.

Jenny Han is a really engaging writer, and she evoked a lot of nostalgic feelings for me about crushes and jealousy and being afraid to share your true feelings. And more than that, she reminded me of the pain and angst and embarrassment which occurs when your most private thoughts get shared with the object of those thoughts! (Ugh.)

This is the first book in a trilogy. I hope the next two are just as enjoyable, although it will be interesting to see where Han takes her characters. I'll certainly be checking them out!

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