To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Series Review: The emotional rollercoaster of a lifetime

So the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before movie came out today or yesterday or something and it is, spoiler alert, good as hell. Honestly better than any of the books in the series. Just go ahead and revoke my bookworm card – it’s happened. I’m someone who says things like “the film adaptation was better” now.

I don’t know why I’m shirking my carefully curated brand like this either.

Anyway, I figured no better time than the semi-related present than to finally post this full series review! I read all the books so you don’t have to and here’s what happened. (Hint: Just watch the movie instead.) (Movie-Peter is hot and fun instead of a massively unbearable asshole.)

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Synopsis

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Sixteen-year-old 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.



Review

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My full review of this one was already posted here!

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Synopsis

P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #2)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?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Timesbestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.



Review

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Guys, it turns out I have more than one form of righteous anger.

I thought I only got instantaneously filled with rage when books are offensive or bigoted or what have you, but it turns out that’s incorrect!

I also get really f*cking mad when my ship doesn’t sail.

Okay, no, that’s not true. I’m a little more mature than that. (I’m no Lara Jean! Buh dum ch. Get it? Because the main character of this book is in a state of arrested development that rivals all four seasons plus the one currently being filmed of the show Arrested Development?) (It’s three a.m. and if I am forming coherent English sentences somehow, I’m entirely unaware of it.)

A n y w a y.

Let’s talk synopsis before we talk about my various stages of emotional paralysis, shall we?

This is the sequel to runaway YA hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a book I also reread and ranted about. Spoilers for the last book: Lil Lara Jean, our insanely-named protagonist, got herself into a little kerfuffle involving a series of letters addressed-n-stamped to old crushes, a fake relationship plot, a love triangle with her sister, and a certain lacrosse-playing douchenozzle the likes of which haunts public high school halls from here to Timbuktu.

So here we are. Book two. How could we possibly make that nonstop thrill ride even more exciting??? The answer may surprise you!!!!

The answer is: Make it so much worse.

Peter was boring in the last book. He was unremarkable. He was immature. But he had swishy hair and good eyebrows and a loud personality we can mistake for charm if we close one eye and try hard so can’t we all just look past it omg??? He’s just misunderstood?? I heard that he’s actually going through a lot. This one time he asked to borrow my pen because we had a French quiz and he didn’t have one and I swear, like…oh my god I know it sounds stupid but when he looked at me he really SAW me, you know?

He is the floppy-haired popular boy we all tried to forcibly make deep in high school.

That is probably the fundamental difference between 2015-first-time-reading-this-me and 2018-bitter-tired-reading-again me. I am not in high school anymore. SO PROJECTING MYSELF ONTO THE FEMALE CHARACTER GETTING YOU’RE NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS’D BY A COOL JOCK ISN’T ENOUGH TO MAKE A BOOK GOOD.

All of that screaming was just about how bad it was last time. It’s even worse in this one, remember? Because Peter (that’s Jock with Nice Hair #1, in case I didn’t mention that) is actually a TOTAL D*CK on top of it!

He throws tantrums when Lara Jean can’t come to one of his dumb jockfests (I believe you may call it a “sporting event”) or doesn’t bake him cookies (this is a CHILD) or isn’t into PDA. He doesn’t care about things she cares about (her penpal, her job at the retirement community – he doesn’t even REMEMBER her cool elderly bestie!! And the woman’s name is Stormy!!! Pretty memorable if you ask me!).

He also spends most of this book gallivanting about with his ex-girlfriend. The same ex-girlfriend who posted a video of Lara Jean and Peter getting hot and heavy on the Internet, which became a meme that almost ruined Lara Jean’s life. Cool!

That’s also a plotline I hate generally, the dangers-of-the-Internet type deal. So I was almost happy when this one faded into oblivion without any real conclusion. Even though that’s just BAD WRITING.

Let’s talk about the good things so then we can talk about more bad things.

There are two characters in this book who I actually, full-on love. The first one’s name is Kitty, and she is the ruler of my entire existence. Kitty is Lara Jean’s ten-year-old sister, who had more spunk and charm and humor (read: personality) in her little finger than every single other character in this rollercoaster through hell put together.

Excluding one. And that one’s name is John Ambrose McClaren.

He is a side of a love triangle. And Jenny Han, if you wanted to grant me the hellishness of actually rooting for a side in a love triangle, rather than just grinning and bearing my way through it, on top of the other emotional turmoil you caused me through this book: It worked, and why would you do that, and I suffered immensely and I will NEVER FORGIVE YOU.

John Ambrose McClaren is no Kitty. He’s not a great character on his own. In fact, he has about as much flavor and excitement as what is known as a “saltine cracker.” But I like saltine crackers. (I do not like this simile.)

What John Ambrose McClaren is: not Peter. He is nice. He is kind to Lara Jean. He cares about what she cares about!!! What a shock!!!! Who can even believe it!!!! They even share having really annoyingly long cutesy unrealistic names in common so I can hate talking about them both equally just due to how long they take to type!!! I type weirdly!!! It hurts my wrists!!!!

But he doesn’t end up with Lara Jean because nothing matters and everything is bad and even when I think I see a glimmer of light in the reread from Satan himself that glimmer is instantly put out with the darkness of a thousand desert nights (are desert nights especially dark?).

So Lara Jean just ends up with the fan fave from the last book after 20 pages of pretending there’s another option. You know. Breakin’ hearts for ~narrative spice~.

NOT FOR ME.

Bullet points of other good stuff:

  • I’m still partial to the Song sisters at large
  • Lara Jean bakes a lot and I like baking and also food descriptions
  • there were moments when I almost got into this…and then was immediately brought back out. But hey, almost
  • diversity!!

Bullet points of the neverending amounts of bad stuff:

  • Lara Jean calls her parents “Mommy” and “Daddy” (call me picky. Call me weird. I say bleh and I stand by that bleh)
  • insta-friendships!! I hate it!!
  • this book is so sweet you might as well just pour powdered sugar on your teeth. Then you can have a physical cavity to match the mental one you’re developing
  • should be a quick read but is actually grating and therefore not
  • Peter and Lara Jean are both so emotionally stunted it’s insane
  • I would honestly much rather read about Margot, the eldest Song sister, romping about in Scotland if not for the fact that Kitty wouldn’t be there
  • I could’ve lived without the whole retirement community plotline
  • and the online-almost-sex-video cyberbullying plotline
  • and the Peter versus John plotline
  • …I guess I could’ve lived without this book altogether

In conclusion: This was raw suffering.

And yes I will be forcing myself through the next one of course.

Bottom line: Hopefully this book is so clearly annoying that even my incoherent 3 a.m. (now 4 a.m.) ramblings can convince you of that fact.

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Synopsis

Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #3)Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?



Review

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I can’t even tell you how much I wanted to love this book.

I reread To All the Boys I Loved Before in May of last year, and not liking it was the equivalent of when you bake cookies but something went wrong with the dough and they all run into one giant flat liquid-looking Thing with really unattractive chocolate chip lumps.

In a word, DEVASTATING.

I reallyreallyreally didn’t want to recreate that cookie-disaster level of sadness. Which is definitely why I didn’t read the second book until eight months later, and not because I’m a procrastinator who can’t stick to anything, or something ridiculous like that.

To prevent myself from skipping out on this book, which was sure to be an injection straight to the veins of pure joy, I checked out both PS I Still Love You and this on Overdrive, thus giving myself a week to read both.

Yes.

I forced myself to read this book. I gave myself a time limit. I essentially school assigned reading’d this sh*t.

And guess what?

It worked.

I don’t think I’ve ever actively wanted to like a book while reading it so much as I did with this.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before helped me get back into reading. As I was emerging from my middle school dark ages of never picking up a book (which were also the dark ages of Aeropostale graphic tees, fake Uggs, and bad haircuts), I used to find books in one way.

This was by entering the Target young adult book aisle, reading every inside jacket or back cover, writing down the titles that seemed interesting, and requesting them from the library.

They were mostly contemporaries, and this was one of them. I loved it. I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading it on a school night – I remember the experience distinctly.

So hating it upon reread was just a goddamn nightmare. A nightmare compounded by PS I Still Love You, which I found to be even worse than its predecessor.

But those actual night terrors only made me more determined to like this book.

And then I realized something: at least a fraction (and a sizable fraction) of liking a book is the determination to like it. If I really wanted to like Always and Forever, Lara Jean, I was sure I could.

So I did. And it worked.

It still had a lot of the things I hated about the first two books. The high school drama; the saccharine, immature quality; above all, the existence of the character of Peter Kavinsky.

There were even bits about this plotline that I hated. Mostly that it consisted of Peter being a completely unforgivable asshole and being forgiven somehow, and the fact that it kept referring to characters rarely mentioned as Lara Jean’s friends as if friendships could be willed into narrative being.

Guess what? They can’t. I still know that Lara Jean only ever talks to her family, Peter, and the half-friends she had in the other books. So there.

But also, I was so sad when this was over. I’m going to miss the way that Jenny Han writes this world. No one can write details like Jenny Han. The clothes, the rooms, the decorations, the craft projects, the Korean culture, the baked goods – oh god, the baked goods.

And the character of Kitty (Lara Jean’s younger sister) is the great love of my life. I am mourning her, as I knew I would mourn her.

I’m more surprised that I’m mourning this series too.

Bottom line: I am endlessly impressed with myself for no good reason, and if there is a higher power or justice or love or anything good in this world, Jenny Han will give Kitty the series she deserves.

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In conclusion, there are three reasons this series is worth reading.

  1. Kitty.
  2. Extremely pretty covers.
  3. You can watch the movie without feeling any residual bookworm-guilt for not having read the book.

That’s literally it. Unless one or more of those compels you strongly, feel very enabled to stay away from this series.

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Have you read any books in this series? Have you watched the movie on Netflix? What did you think?

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44 thoughts on “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Series Review: The emotional rollercoaster of a lifetime

  1. Elizabeth says:

    HAHA, this is totally me when reading these books! You’ve summed up so many of my EXACT SAME THOUGHTS!
    But, I really think Peter wanted to like what Lara Jean liked, but Lara Jean didn’t let him into her world in PS I Love You. I actually got mad at Lara Jean in that book. Because as much as she complained about not showing up for Peter, she didn’t show up for his stuff. I guess I had more sympathy for him? Because alot of his stuff was extracurricular, so required especially to get into college, and he was dealing with his absentee dad wanting to be in his life. And she didn’t tell him about her stuff until it was happening, and he’s like, whoah, what are you doing now???

    And Lara Jean kept things from him? And he told her he had to keep Gen’s deal secret, but she totally wouldn’t trust him! Even though he was honest about the fact that Gen was calling him, and he was still her friend, but she just wouldn’t trust him!
    But she straight up just lied about John Ambrose McClaren not being at Model UN! For no good reason!
    AGH! They were both so immature and I got mad at them both! But especially Lara Jean because that girl could NOT MAKE UP HER MIND.

    BUT the movie made it all incredibly cute. I mean, it’s just based on the first book, which I though was overdramatic and terribly dull BUT the movie was adorable and cute and I could rewatch it a half a dozen times.

    *sigh* this comment is insanely long because I love to rant about these books. They were cute. But so annoying and long and so much unnecessary drama.

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      these are all honestly super good points. idk, while lara jean definitely bugged me at some moments, i am SO BIASED against peter in the books!! i just think he’s so annoying. i think he reminds me too much of like, some high school jock i would have inadvisably crushed on when i was 15 and extremely dumb.

      OMG I COULD NOT AGREE MORE W/ THE FIRST BOOK VS THE MOVIE. the first book was annoying/boring/etc most of the time but the movie???? never anything but cute + fun. it just totally streamlined the plot and i feel like made the characters better along the way???

      there is literally nothing you can do about these books but rant about them. that’s all there is

      Like

  2. readingbystarlightblog says:

    Great post! I haven’t had a chance to watch the movie yet (I don’t have netflixs 😦 😦 😦 I simply must make an account asap!) I’m so glad though that I wasn’t the only one who adored John Ambrose McClaren. I mean – PETER WHO????? I was devastated when my ship was sunk in P.S. I Still Love You.

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      thank you!!!! UGH YES TEAM JOHN AMBROSE FOR LIFE. although honestly in the movie peter is amazing so…not sure how i’d feel about the love triangle if they adapt the second one 😮 hopefully you get the chance to watch the movie eventually!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ellyn says:

    I just watched the movie (and I’m kind of in love with it?) so I put the book on hold at the library (there’s one copy and 9 holds oml). I really don’t know if it’s going to be my thing, and your review really made me think that it isn’t, I mean there must be a reason I never felt inclined to pick up the trilogy in the first place, right??
    I’d love for there to be movie sequels and I definitely will try the books but I don’t know that the book will be my cup of tea even though baking is LIFE.

    Either way, great review, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      honestly honestly honestly i just know my bookworm card is going to get revoked but…the movie’s better. it just is. it’s cuter and fun-er and the plot is streamlined and the characters are nicer and the romance is sweeter!!

      but there is much more baking in the series. and more kitty. so if you do pick it up i hope u enjoy!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ellyn says:

        Don’t wirry about it, we’re all entitled to our own views and opinions. Tbh, I think I’ll probably end up agreeing w you about Peter. He just seems too perfect in the movie!, so for me I doubt book!Peter will live up to how I now think of the character.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ayunda says:

    Haven’t read any of the books and not really interested in them, they’re just too YA lovey-dovey for me, it’s just too icky for my taste. I wouldn’t mind spending 2 hour watching the movie, though, and it might be a fun movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lily @ Sprinkles of Dreams says:

    LOL @ Lily-before-reading-this-post, who wanted to reread the first two books before watching the movie. I HOPE THE MOVIE IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE BOOKS ARE. (I saw a few people on social media dragging it, and I felt salty, even though I haven’t seen it yet, oops.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      literally the only way anyone could ever be salty about the movie is if they hated joy and also cuteness. i will be spending the rest of my life actively suppressing memories of the books so that only the movie exists in my mind.

      also: HI HI HI I MISSED U WHAT TF IS UP

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wicked Good Reads says:

    I only read the first book, but I totally agree with you! I feel like everyone raves about this series and I was so not impressed. I even attempted to start the second book, and got like 20 pages in and was like, nope! I watched the movie this past weekend and thought it was pretty cute, though they left out a TON from the book. I don’t think I would’ve watched the movie if I hadn’t read the book though…

    Liked by 1 person

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      the second book is even worse than the first one!!! it is truly unreal.

      & yes the movie left out some stuff, but honestly to me it felt like they just streamlined the plot a bit. there were no dry/confusing parts and the more unforgivable parts of the drama were gone so improvement imo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Destiny @ Howling Libraries says:

    Amazing review!! And I am high key impressed with you for finishing the series after disliking the first 2 so much! I’ve tried reading the first book twice and DNFed it both times. I’m just gonna watch the movie tbh. Maybe I’ll give the trilogy another try some day, though – those covers ARE super gorgeous…

    Liked by 2 people

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      thank you!!! i read the first two books when they first came out (and when i was soooo young and naïve and actually, you know, liked stuff). so i mostly kept reading b/c i was like WHAT IS HAPPENING I MUST BE WRONG I NEED TO LIKE THIS!!!

      i will advocate for everyone to just watch the movie w/o reading the books even if it means the permanent loss of my bookworm card. pretty covers + more of kitty = the only advantages of the books

      Liked by 1 person

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