By Jenny Han
Available now from Simon & Schuster BFYR
I like Jenny Han's novels, but her current (co-written) series doesn't appeal to me. TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE, however, sounded awesome. Laura Jean Song writes letters to the boys she's crushed on when she's ready to let go of the crush and move on. When her letters get mailed, she has to deal with the leak of her private feelings.
When I started TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE, I was expecting a romance. If you are expecting a romance, then you'll be disappointed. The novel's focus is Lara Jean and her personal journey. Boys are involved, but they're secondary. Just as important are Lara Jean's sisters. Margot, the older sister, took over the household after their mother died, but now she's off to college in another country. Lara Jean misses her sister, but it also gives her some of the space she needs to define herself. She's lived a cautious, non-confrontational life, but sometimes you have to say what you want and go for it.
That being said, the romantic parts are great. You see, Lara Jean isn't over one of the boys: Josh. But Josh was Margot's boyfriend until she moved. So Lara Jean pretends to be dating Peter, one of the other letter recipients, who happens to want to send a "We are really broken up" message to his ex. I am so tired of love triangles, but this one worked for me because I wasn't able to predict where it was going. (At least, not initially.) Lara Jean's interest in the boys didn't seem plot mandated, nor were they mysterious bad boys who just walked into her life. She clearly had an interest in both before the book began.
I also enjoyed how Lara Jean's Korean heritage was woven through the story. She's only half, but obviously Asian. Most of the time, it doesn't matter, but sometimes it really does, like how all her Halloween costumes are assumed to be Asian characters. Han really understands that adding specificity to Lara Jean's story makes it more realistic and relatable instead of less.
I think that TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen and other contemporary YA writers. There is going to be a sequel, P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU, and I can't wait till next spring to read it. (Please note that I read the ARC of TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE, and it has been announced that the final book has a longer ending and a couple of extra chapters. I will update this review after I read the final version if there are any changes relevant to my review.)