to all the boys i've loved before

Trilogy Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

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

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S E R I E S  R A T I N G //  🌸 🌸

Lara Jean’s having a bit of a tough time in high school; her sister just moved away to college, and the love letters that she wrote to all the boys she’s had a crush on before are mailed to each recipient. One by one, Lara Jean is forced to confront each of these boys much to her mortification – she’s ill-equipped to handle such sticky situations, and throw in fake-dating, a leaked scandalous video of her with the cheeky but charming Peter Kavinsky in the mix and it all becomes a little too much to handle. That’s how the series starts – with a bunch of letters being mailed out, a lovable protagonist and writing that makes you feel like you’re floating on a cloud of pink.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before started off with a bang. In fact, the first book may be one of my favorite contemporaries of all time. You’re immediately drawn in with the unconventionality of it all – Jenny Han strays far from tropes. There are things in this series that I’ve always wanted more from in YA books, and because of that alone, this series is worth picking up.

For one, there’s a wonderful family structure surrounding Lara Jean.

Her father is protective, supportive and immensely lovable, and his presence in her life isn’t reduced to just reality. He plays an important role in each of these three books, and how often do we get present parental figures who are genuinely good? Moreover, Lara Jean’s relationship with her sisters is given proper time to develop and evolve. Kitty, her younger sister, is feisty and sarcastic, and is a prominent secondary character in the series. Lara Jean’s older sister is also a strong presence, even though she’s away studying in Scotland. The tight-knit familial relationships are a wonderful aspect to this series.

Lara Jean is a lovable protagonist – her childlike innocence and ‘immaturity’ are another unconventional aspect to the series.

This is one thing that makes the series unlikable to some people – they think Lara Jean’s too juvenile, too immature and childlike, but that’s something I greatly appreciated about this series. It’s not that she’s immature at all; it’s just that she has an innocent personality. She enjoys baking and cute things. There is something incredibly endearing about a girl who enjoys fluffy clothes, and calls her father “daddy” even when she’s a teenager. I think sometimes readers are too unforgiving of different personalities and different experiences. I, a South Asian reader, related to Lara Jean a lot, not in her interests and hobbies, but rather because of her relationship with her family, and her resistance to things “rebel” teenagers do. I was never much of a rebel, honestly, and I don’t often relate to books where the teens have no regard for rules or authority. Lara Jean’s personality was a refreshing relief from protagonists that had started to blend together.

The series is so cute. It reads like you’re floating on a cloud, wrapped in fluffy blankets with hot cookies by your side.

to all the boys i've loved before

It’s just so cute – it’s written with warmth, the dialogue feels incredibly personable, and the romance between Lara Jean and Kavinsky, especially, is adorable. Their banter while they’re fake-dating in the first book, moving on to their respectful, but also topsy-turvey and flawed relationship dynamic, was wonderful to watch. I’m a massive fan of commitment in books, and that’s another thing you don’t often see. And Jenny Han does such a fantastic job of developing these characters that you can’t help but fall in love with them. All of them. In the end, no matter how you feel about the individual books, you can’t help but feel like you’re returning home to people that you love and know.

So why the 2-star rating? There’s so much here to love!

See, the thing is – if I were judging book one alone, I’d give a rating of four or four and a half stars. Because the series starter could’ve been a great stand-alone. The sequels? They felt so… unnecessary. After turning the last page of the second book, I asked myself, “What was the point?” And similarly after turning the page of the last book, I asked myself yet again, “No really. What is the point?” And when you consistently ask yourself why a series is a series? That’s not really a great series, then, is it?

Because while the first book was fun to read, the sequels dragged. If I were an editor…

I would replace the entire plot of the second book with something different, then condense the events of the third book in ten or so chapters, and add those ten chapters to the newly written second book. And even then, the first book didn’t need any more! The plot of P.S. I Still Love You was so unnecessary, and that’s all I can do to describe it. The ending totally destroyed any build-up to any of the tensions in the second book – Lara Jean finds herself in the same situation at the end of Book II as she does in the start of it. And that’s a problem I had with Always & Forever, Lara Jean too. The book builds up to a pivotal moment in Lara Jean’s life (there’s virtually no plot but there is one major tension) – she has to make a choice, and you’re reading to find out where it’s going. And then at the last second, Jenny Han twists it around with five pages to spare. The conclusions are incredibly rushed. The plot changes and the sheer unencessity of it gave me whiplash.

Of course, that’s almost entirely my personal preference. Some people enjoy slice-of-life books; in a way, this series reads a lot like TV shows. Different problems in different books, some repetitions, some back-and-forth. And if you love the characters enough, you won’t mind it. But from a critical standpoint, the series flickers and stumbles beyond the first book.

But despite my clear issues, I will still recommend the first book to everyone who enjoys light contemporaries.

Because the first book was just that great, to me. Like I said, there’s a lot going for this series, and it’s become one of those books that is my go-to recommendation for people looking for summer reads that are cute, light and fun. However, if you were to ask me, I wouldn’t recommend the sequels much. The first book is a great stand-alone, too.

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Review | P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #2) by Jenny Han

psTitle: P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #2)

Author: Jenny Han

Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary > Romance

Synopsis: Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

Final Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Check out my review for the first book in the series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Check out this book’s Goodreads page.

Interested? Buy it now on the Book Depository & get free worldwide shipping.

Aimal’s Review:

I’m not one of those people who had to wait a long time for this book. I read the first in the series last month, so I only had to wait a couple of weeks. Either way, my excitement levels were very high. I really enjoyed the first book; I thought it was light, sweet and just a fun ride, so I expected the same with the second one. I don’t want to say that this book was a let-down, because I know a lot of people absolutely loved it. But I was disappointed, but perhaps that’s my own fault because I didn’t read the synopsis.

Now, from the synopsis, it’s pretty obvious that there’s going to be a love triangle in this one. I went into this installment completely blind, so I wasn’t expecting to be hit in the face with a love triangle. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I hate love triangles. The only negative about the first book was that the protagonist made some pretty bad decisions because she was juggling two guys at the same time. So imagine my surprise when I sat down, expecting relationship development and cutesy moments between Lara Jean and Kavinksy and my dreams being crushed as a second, random guy comes between the two.

The beginning of the book was fantastic. I was hooked. It was exactly what I wanted/needed it to be. There were cute moments with Lara Jean and her family. I got to see more of her Korean culture in the beginning, and Lara Jean was in a tough place with regards to Kavinsky and the ‘scandal’ that arose in the first book. When Kavinsky and Lara Jean do get together, I thought it was done very nicely. The beginning of their relationship was adorable, and I had zero problems.

But then John shows up. Remember? That guy she handed a note to at the Model United Nations event in the last book? Yes, he shows up and everything went downhill from there (at least for me.) His introduction into the storyline was absolutely unnecessary. There was so much drama that was not needed with Lara Jean and Kavinsky, and Lara Jean and Genevieve, and Lara Jean and John. There was way too much angst, and keep in mind that this novel is pretty short, so it felt like it was a little all over the place.

The resolution of the several conflicts was done in, like, eight pages. By the end, everything felt rushed and the ending was a little too abrupt. It kind of felt like Jenny Han wrote an ending, and then at the last moment, she decided that she wasn’t happy with it so she tacked on the last seven or eight pages.

I will say that a lot of people are saying that Peter Kavinsky’s character was a lot more dickish in this book, but I would disagree. He’s seventeen years old, and he’s done nothing wrong, but he’s constantly being bombarded with drama from all sides of his life. If anything, Lara Jean was the jerk in this novel, and though I liked her in the first book, she just annoyed the living daylights out of me in this one.

Overall, I wanted a lot more from this book. Unfortunately, I will go about my life pretending like the first one was a stand-alone, and I’m going to pretend like this book never happened.

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: ★★★★☆

Check out this book’s Goodreads page!

Interested? Buy it now on the Book Depository and get free worldwide shipping!

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.

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