book review – to all the boys i’ve loved before


to all the boys i’ve loved before by jenny han

release date – april 15th, 2014

genre – ya contemporary romance

publisher / imprint – simon and schuster books for young readers

buy book here – amazon | barnes and noble | book depository

source – purchased copy at barnes and noble

summary (from the book) –

lara jean 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 can pour out her heart and soul and say 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.

*i am going to spoil some things about the book so it would be better if you avoid reading this entire review.*

“i think i see the difference now, between loving someone from afar and loving someone up close. when you see them up close, you see the real them, but they also get to see the real you.” (page 354)

i’m sorry if you like this book and the series itself. so many people love this book and i can understand why. this book has great family dynamics, especially with sisters bonding with each other. the romance was very enjoyable. the whole experience with lara jean and peter’s relationship was in fact delightful. the story was itself entertaining and amusing that readers would definitely enjoy. however, there was problematic things in the book concerning the characterization and the classification of the book that really tip the scale of the good and bad things about to all the boys i’ve loved before.

so let’s start with lara jean. she’s a hopeless romantic. a characteristic that i can definitely relate to, considering how the both of us hardly experience love and relationships. she even reads books and watches anime! in one scene when halloween was around the corner, she was so aware with what she dresses up as that would end up being a manga or anime character to everyone else since she is asian. that to me would be someone that could possibly be my best friend, though not a romantic crush.

but the majority of the problems i have about the book mainly focuses on her. for one, she is so immature and selfish for her age. cover-wise, i would’ve imagine lara jean to be somewhat mature with a sweet, but reserved personality, who secretly has a passion with aesthetics and books and anime/k-dramas and so forth. however, it was anything but mature at all. if lara jean were to be a middle schooler or possibly in her freshmen year of high school, it would totally make sense. knowing that she would develop as someone less of a nuisance and more rational, it can make her character development more appropriate. here are a few quotes from the book that shows how juvenile lara jeam can be sometimes. exhibit a:

“peter stretches his arms out. ‘then i’ll help you. just give me an apron.’

i back away from him and start rummaging around for another apron. i find one with a cupcake print and hand it to him.

he makes a face and points at mine. ‘i want the one you’re wearing.’

‘but it’s mine!’ it’s red-and-white gingham with little brown bears; my grandma got it for me in korea. ‘i always bake in this. just wear that one'” (page 175)

and exhibit b (for more clarification, this is the scene where lara jean got in a car accident and she does not know how to handle the situation):

“‘i’m on my way. do you want me to stay on the phone with you?’

‘no, that’s okay.’ i hang up and start to cry. (page 35-36)

so i guess it’s really bad when the car has a huge dent and you’re there crying about it rather than thinking about how you should not take life for granted and that you’re grateful that you’re not injured? well that shows something.

then we have margot, lara jean’s older sister. she’s the one who’s basically the “mom” of the family ever since their mom tragically passed away from an incident at home. she tries to make sure everything’s under control, with having to cook for the family and for taking care of her younger sisters. the problem with her was actually until later in the story when she moved back for christmas break. she just became more nit-picky and over-controlling that really bugs me as well. i wish there was some sort of explanation with how her personality came to be as she studied abroad, but that would mean a spinoff about margot, which i could be down with. but otherwise, i dislike the type of sister that’s being characterized as that.

lastly, there’s another character that i’m not particularly annoyed with, but how it was executed. we know that genevieve is the mean girl of the story. but what else is there? we only get so much backstory and little dialogue from her that we hardly see who genevieve truly is rather than just the mean girl. she just felt flat and one-dimensional for me to wish that in the second book (that i’m hoping to read), she’ll be exposed more often for me to really get to learn her character.

now onward to the next part of the issues with this book, and that is the genre and the classification of the book. it’s fine if the people categorized this book as ya because the main character is a teenager and the language of the book suits more towards teens and over. but story-wise, it felt like i was reading a middle-grade novel for one second. because of lara jean’s incessant whining in a few scenes throughout the story, it makes me think that if the characters were to be younger than usual, this whole book would end up being better. you can’t truly imagine this story toward a girl who’s on her junior year, which is one of the most important years of high school, with school and college applications and such that could determine the next few years of her life. but it seems that her love life and the letters became the main crisis for lara jean. she sure has priorities.

there is one thing i wish for this book, so this is just a minor issue for me. i appreciate the book having diversity. lara jean’s dad does his best to still appreciate korean culture with trying korean food, knowing that because his wife passed away, there might be an erasure of the sisters’ asian heritage overtime. however, i wish it was more than just food in displaying diversity and heritage. there can be so many things that han could’ve incorporated that really showed that such as fashion or celebrating holidays or certain customs and traditions that really brings out their culture more.. if i am willing to continue on with the series, i will be on the lookout for that because it seems that they only celebrate american holidays so i need more “oomph” than just that.

it seems that all of these rants sound like i would be rating this book one star or anything closer than than. but there were a few things that saved this book from being a total eyesore from my shelves. kitty was one of the characters i really love out of everybody in the book. no, not lara jean. not peter. not josh. kitty. i had a few laughs and chuckles here and there from this book, and it mostly comes from kitty’s personality and banters. i just adore her throughout the story, the one thing that i can mostly enjoy if i were to read this entire series.

“this is our life; there’s no use in asking what if. no one could ever give you the answers. i try, i really do, but it’s hard for me to accept this way of thinking. i’m always wondering about the what-ifs, about the road not taken.” (page 10-11)

will i read the second book? i have no idea. i don’t know whether the second book would irritate me more because of lara jean’s character or because of margot’s judgmental and uptight attitude or possibly the fact there’s still little culture that was displayed in the book. or if it would end up being better than the first book because of kitty’s sassiness and snark that makes me chuckle a bit or if john can become the one that i would root for as lara jean’s love interest. i’m just hoping that someone out there can motivate me into continuing on because otherwise, then buying the whole series would be something i might regret purchasing.

“and i’m certain, i’m so suddenly certain that everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be, that i don’t have to be so afraid of good-bye, because good-bye doesn’t have to be forever.” (page 355)


p.s. i’m not in my ranting element right now, but if you have read it, do you think brandon flynn make a good peter kavinsky? for some reason, i’ve been using him to play character and he can make a good kavinsky. is that just me? oh well. ¯_()_/¯


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