Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before # 1
Published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on April 15, 2014
Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them... all at once?
Lara Jean Song 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 pours out her heart and soul and says 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.
When I read the synopsis of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I felt so much sympathy for Lara Jean, the main character. Lara Jean has written letters to a number of her crushes over the years, never intending to actually send them. She pours her heart out in the letters, telling each guy what she loves about him and what she hates. She recounts events in painstaking detail. And then, horror of horrors, those letters are somehow taken from her room and mailed. Lara Jean first learns of this when one of the guys approaches her, puzzled as to why she wrote him this letter.
The story wasn’t what I expected, based on the synopsis. I thought Lara Jean would be mortified over the mailing of her secret letters and that she would spend a significant amount of time recovering from the embarrassment. Perhaps she would even be ridiculed. When I think how I would have felt if something like that had happened to me in high school, I’m sure I would have been afraid to show my face. Hell, I’d be embarrassed today if something like that happened! But all of the guys who received Lara Jean’s letters were flattered, if a tad confused. That was a bit hard to believe. I would think that at least one of them would have shown it to his friends and had a good laugh over it. Harder to believe was the fact that Lara Jean somehow seemed empowered, and her social life immediately picks up steam. Just to be clear, I wasn’t wishing the story would consist of Lara Jean hibernating in her room and weeping over the embarrassment, but I didn’t find her actual actions to be very realistic.
One more criticism, and it’s a big one, and then I’ll tell you about the things I liked about this story. There’s a love triangle, which is not the end of the world, except…one side of this triangle involves the very recent ex-boyfriend of her beloved older sister. I’ve given a hard time to books that involved a girl involved in a love triangle with two brothers (like THIS one and THAT one), and I think that an MC pursuing her sister’s ex is even less endearing.
On to the good stuff:
- Lara Jean’s relationships with her two sisters are so warm and loving (minus the whole “I’m going after your ex” thing). This book made me wish that I had a sister. Nine-year-old Kitty manages to be precocious without being annoying, and Margot is a wonderfully supportive older sister.
- It’s easy to see what attracts Lara Jean to both guys. Neither is perfect, and neither is ridiculously and obsessively in love with her, unlike some less successful YA romances. They both behave like typical high school guys, with all of the good and bad that that entails.
- The ending was what I wanted, even though it still took me by surprise. It’s not all roses, but it’s very sweet and very clever.
I can’t wait to hear what other readers think of the ending. I think it will be one that divides people, but I thought it was perfect.