Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Length: 355 pages
My star rating: ★ ★ ★
Hopeless romantic Lara Jean has fallen in–and, she thinks, out of–love with five different boys in her life, and to each one she’s written a heartfelt and very private love letter to “get over” her crush and move on. Then, just before the beginning of her junior year of high school, her secret letters get mailed. Embarrassed, Lara Jean makes a contract with letter recipient Peter K., her former friend and crush, to make one of the other recipients (who also happens to be her next-door neighbor and, worse, her sister’s ex-boyfriend) believe she’s moved on. But as the months pass, she begins to wonder just how fake her fake relationship really is.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has an intriguing and adorably sitcom-esque premise, and it’s also gotten a lot of hype over the past several years. It’s mostly good fun. I enjoyed reading it, really; it was kind of a sugar rush. And I don’t want to pick it apart or anything. I guess I just set the bar too high going in based on all that hype…again. When will I ever learn?
This book has a likable and endearing heroine in Lara Jean Song Covey, a dreamy-eyed and naive middle child. It has a very paint-by-numbers storyline that still managed to keep me interested over the course of several days, which includes a charming little love story. Some things in particular kept me from giving it more than three stars, though…
The writing style employed by Jenny Han is incredibly simplistic. Short, repetitive sentences that tell readers things instead of showing them ultimately make up a large number of short, choppy chapters. Normally–especially in chick lit–that wouldn’t bother me, but as soon as I noticed it here (maybe a hundred pages in), I just kept noticing it.
The story was also incredibly predictable; every “mystery” or tense moment lost all impact for me, because it was set up in such a way that the answers were so obvious. For instance: Lara Jean’s baby sister gets angry with her, then a few days later all her private love letters get mailed. Gee, who could’ve done it?! Lara Jean is certain she knows everything about her big sister, but then finds out she was wrong all along. Shocker.
Also, some of the characters either failed to spark properly (Josh, Lara Jean’s boy-next-door crush and her sister’s ex) or pissed me off so thoroughly that I wanted to scream any time they were even mentioned (mainly Lara Jean’s older sister Margot). For the most part I liked Lara Jean, though, even if she was intentionally “quirky” and sometimes painfully naive/childish. I hated how much everyone pushed her around and told her what to do/feel/think, and I genuinely rooted for her to be happy and fulfilled. Her interactions with Peter were also a lot of fun.
Also, yay diversity but what’s with all the half-Asian female MCs in YA over the past couple of years? Is it just trendy for a reason I don’t totally understand?
Overall, I read this one expecting something more than a cutesy YA romance because of all the hype. In reality, it’s a quick, sweet read–quicker and sweeter than adult chick-lit, but made up of more or less the same substance–the literary equivalent to a bag of skittles or gummy bears. I liked it and “aw”ed over it, probably enough to read the sequel, but I didn’t love it.