Review | To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1) by Jenny Han

all the boysTitle: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1)

Author: Jenny Han

Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary > Romance

Synopsis: 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.

Would I recommend? If you’re looking for a cute, light read.

Final Rating: ★★★★☆

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Aimal’s Review:

The first thing you should know before going into this book is that you won’t find it life-changing or especially touching or even ‘deep.’ No, not at all. If you’re looking for a contemporary like that, I’d suggest you turn away from this book and walk far, far away to avoid disappointment. Come back another day; come back when you want something light and fun and entertaining between books. Read it when you don’t have expectations, when you just want something that will lift up your spirits and make you feel light overall. This is a mood-book. If you’re not in the right mood or mindset to read it, you will not like it. But if you are, it might very well be a book you love for years to come.

I’ve never read a Jenny Han book before. I’ve heard nothing but praise about her Summer trilogy, and even though there have been mixed reviews regarding her Burn for Burn series, it still sounds interesting enough for me to want to read it. Some of my favorite BookTubers, who aren’t even into contemporary much, (*cough cough* Regan) seems to love Jenny Han’s books. I didn’t want to commit to yet another series, so I picked this one up, since the second book is not out yet.

Like I said before, I wasn’t disappointed because it was exactly what I had hoped for. I wanted something light to read after a grueling week of finals, and that is exactly what I got. I thought the story was very fast-paced. I enjoyed that even though it was dominated by romance, there were other aspects surrounding it as well. I especially had fun reading about a character of Korean descent, because I’ve never read a book like that before. I didn’t think the writing style was extraordinary, but it definitely had an addictive quality to it.

Plot:

I was immediately interested in this book after reading the synopsis. A girl who writes letters to the boys she’s loved, to get over them, and she never sends them. She keeps them hidden in a blue hat box in her room, so imagine her mortification and distress when she finds that someone has mailed these letters. Lara Jean is forced to come face to face with many of these letters’ recipients, and it was a lot of fun to see how she got out of her sticky situation, how she dealt with it, as well as the background mystery of who had posted these letters.

Jenny Han does a fantastic job of pacing. Like I said before, the romance aspect – as expected – was dominant throughout the book, but it wasn’t heavy handed or overpowering. Han perfectly balanced these romantic aspects with Lara Jean’s family life, as well as her friendships and her interests outside of school. I’m very tired of YA contemporaries that focus on romance as if nothing else exists in the character’s life, so I appreciated how it was dealt with in this book.

I didn’t think the plot was predictable. There were some aspects that I saw coming, but otherwise, I thought it flowed very nicely. I finished this book in one day because I was hooked, because everything was happening at such a fast, yet comfortable, pace.

Characters:

I really loved Lara Jean’s character. Yes, she annoyed me at times, but I thought she was a very realistic character- someone who exists everywhere in all teenage girls, to some extent. I enjoyed her relationships with her father and her two sisters; it was pleasant to read about their close-knit family after her mother’s passing. Often, we read about broken family ties in novels, and to some, this happy-go-lucky, tight family may sound unrealistic, but it was refreshing for me to read. It was especially interesting because as a South Asian person, I often found myself not able to relate to American family structures described in most novels; yet, this almost-Korean family structure was very close to my own, which made reading it a lot more personal.

Love triangles bother me. They always have, and they always will. I wasn’t bothered by the love triangle in this book much, per se, but I was bothered by how Lara Jean dealt with one of the boys. Often, it seems like the common denominator is playing with the feelings of the other two people, and even though I didn’t feel that was the case in this book, it was still a little uncomfortable as I watched Lara Jean’s indecisions.

I thought the two boys we encounter most were well-constructed, especially Peter Kavinsky. Han creates such wonderful relationships around her secondary characters, and these relationships give the readers insight into these characters’ personalities. Peter Kavinsky took on such a huge role by the middle of the book that Josh was, for the most part, put towards the background. I would like to see more of his character in the next book, because I feel he has a lot of potential waiting to be discovered.

Writing Style:

I’ve read a ton of reviews saying that Jenny Han’s writing style is slightly immature. I can’t agree or disagree, because I haven’t read her other books to actually formulate an opinion, but I will say that this immaturity facilitated the voice of this narrator. For the most part, I thought the immaturity Han injected into her writing and narrative was another building-point for Lara Jean’s character, and I don’t think that Han’s writing itself is immature. But, I will have to read more of her books to make an opinion.

Like many contemporary writers, Han’s writing does have an addictive quality to it. She doesn’t embellish a lot so her writing is easy to read for everyone and it flows nicely. If you’re looking for lyrical, beautiful prose, I don’t think this is the book for you. This book, if anything, is just a feel-good, sweet contemporary read.

Comments

  1. I read this one recently, and agree with you on several points. It was my first Jenny Han book too. Although I thought it was a fun read with an interesting premise I was not blown away. Then again, I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary, so I’m not the best judge. 🙂

    • Yeah, I wasn’t blown away either. There are very few contemporaries that can blow me away, but the ones that do are up there among my all-time favorite books!

      • Yes, I’m trying to make an effort to read more contemporaries since I don’t really give them a chance. I probably won’t get to another one for a while, but need to because I haven’t even read Paper Towns yet!

        • I feel like it’s easier to judge and not like contemporaries because they are closer to life, and therefore, it’s easier to see where they are unrealistic and lacking. I stay away from them too, for the most part! Paper Towns was good; probably my favorite of John Green’s books after tFiOS!

          • Good point, yes I think that is the problem I have with them. I just love visiting new worlds and futures completely different from our own so the plots have an easier time attracting my attention then contemporary novels.

  2. I totally agree with you on this one! I love Lara Jean but she needs a serious talk about how to deal with certain situations! great review 😀

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