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

April 22, 2014 Reviews 9 ★★★½

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before # 1
Published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on April 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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.


9 Responses to “Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han”

  1. Valerie @ Innocent Smiley's Reviews

    Hmmm. I’m not sure what to think. At one end, I would agree with you and say that one boy should at least make fun of the letters in some way. But then at the other end, why would you make fun of someone’s really heartfelt letter? Haha this does sound like a very interesting plot nonetheless. I might add it to my TBR (and I avoid romance like the plague)!
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  2. Cindy

    Great review! I’ve seen this book around alot. Guess it means I got to try it too. 🙂 I agree so much about the whole she embarrassed and mortified about the sent letters. I’m pretty sure the boys at my school will actually show their letter to their friends. It does seem a bit unrealistic. Do all five boys happen to be at 5 different schools? Hmm. The ending sounds intriguing. Gotta search this book up. 🙂

    Cindy @ In This World of Books..
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  3. Angel (Spare Reads)

    I thought the same too! I would probably avoid school for a week if something like this happened to me. The reactions from her crushes do sound a bit too idealized. There are definitely sensitive boys like that, but at the same time this gossip is bound to go crazy in a high school setup. I would probably still enjoy the positiveness though and the romance 😛 TBR it is!
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  4. Nara

    What? All the guys were flattered with the letters and didn’t want to show them to their friends? That seems seriously unrealistic…The fact that Lara Jean wasn’t embarrassed at all also seems a bit unrealistic. I’d probably lock myself in my room for days haha.
    I’m glad to see that the flaws weren’t enough to cause you to dislike the book! I’ve definitely seen enough good reviews of this book around the blogosphere to grab myself a copy at some point 🙂
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  5. Kel

    I’m not a big contemporary romance reader, but I’ve heard good things about this book. Having not read it, I still agree with you that none of the guys laughing over the letters and Lara Jean not going through some sort of horrible embarrassment seems unrealistic. High school is too dog eat dog to have none of that. It’s good to hear that the story isn’t all about the boys and portrays good relationships with the sisters. Thanks for the review! 🙂
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  6. Michelle (Pink Polka Dot Book Blog)

    I loved this book… but I totally agree that I thought that it was going to be more about the letters than it was. I liked the ending a lot, but don’t really feel like a second book is needed. I mean I will totally read it, but I feel like Lara Jean and the guy that she ended up deciding on could have worked things out or not and it could have wrapped up completely. Oh well… I still thought it was adorable. Especially the sister relationships 🙂
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  7. Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

    I felt very much the same for this one. I found the synopsis to be a deceiving and the response to the letters being mailed out to be a bit too optimistic. But I still thought the story was cute and I loved the family relationship in this one.

    I heard the ARC had a different ending than the final copy so I need to check out this book to see if that is true.
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  8. Reviews From A Bookworm

    Great review! I really enjoyed this book, it wasn’t what I was expecting either but I really loved it. I found the whole sister’s boyfriend part a little weird too, but she wasn’t actively pursuing him – she was doing all she could not to for most of the book. I loved the end but it made me super excited for the sequel.
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