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.)
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.
My full review of this one was already posted here!
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
In conclusion, there are three reasons this series is worth reading.
- Extremely pretty covers.
- 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.