Synopsis: 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.
Author: Jenny Han
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have been kidnapped by aliens, you’ve no doubt heard about a book called To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before that has recently been adapted into a film by Netflix.
I’m going to be upfront and tell you now that I Hated this book. Yes, hated with a capital H!
*cue the gasps of horror*
BUT I did enjoy the film! More on that in another post that’s coming soon.
I know I said I hated jumping on bandwagons but I had to read this to know what 90% of book Twitter was going on about. It was two evenings I could have spent my time reading This Mortal Coil (my current read that I’m a quarter of the way through and absolutely love) that I’ll never get back.
If you’re not sure what the premise is – and I’ll be quite surprised if you don’t – I’ll just quickly explain: Lara Jean, our main character and narrator, has written letters to all the boys she’s ever loved, except she has never posted these letters. Instead she keeps them hidden away in her bedroom for her eyes only. Lara Jean is the only one who knows about these letters… until one day when they’ve been posted out to each one of the five boys she wrote letters to. One of those boys being none other than her sister’s boyfriend, Josh, who Lara Jean is madly in love with. Lara Jean hatches a plan in order to convince Josh that she’s really over him and chaos ensues.
I actually really liked the premise. I thought it had been the potential to be amazing. Except I didn’t really gel with it. There were a few reasons for this, with the first being how slow the book was, especially in the beginning. The first six chapters was Lara Jean talking about, and interacting with, her older sister Margot and Margot’s boyfriend, Josh, the one Lara Jean is in love with. Nothing noteworthy towards the main plot even happens in these six chapters. It’s just Lara Jean talking to and about them – she’s borderline obsessed with their relationship, something I found pretty weird. That’s not to say nothing happens at all, because she has to deal with Margot moving halfway across the world to attend university and stepping up to the mantle of big sister as they have a younger sister, Kitty, who is nine, but it was nothing that made me feel anything other than how frustrated I was at the pace.
Sixteen chapters in and we finally get to some plot! Lara Jean’s letters are posted without her knowledge, which, if it happened to me, I would have been furious and I probably wouldn’t have reacted as well as Lara Jean. Out of the five letters she wrote, only four received them – the fifth had been returned to her as it had been addressed to a camp she had attended a few years previously. The plot starts to thicken here and it starts to feel like I’m actually reading a book with substance. The rest of the book is all about Lara Jean digging a deeper hole for herself – when I said chaos would ensue after the letters were sent out I wasn’t kidding, chaos does really ensue. I did think her whole reasoning for doing what she did was a bit much but, from the perspective of a teenager, it’s not entirely far-fetched. I imagine a lot of us, especially us girls, have done something completely bizarre at that age thanks to or because of a boy. What becomes of this chaos is, ultimately, heartwarming.
Along the way, Lara Jean actually discovers more about herself, which was really nice to see. The Lara Jean in the beginning felt like someone who had no opinions, no dreams, no likes or dislikes of her own. Maybe it’s Middle Child Syndrome. Who knows? But by the end, Lara Jean has actually got more than one side to her. She goes through so much change in the year, from having to step into the role of big sister and taking care of everyone at home, to developing new friendships, and navigating through the madness that is high school and all the trials and tribulations that come with that. Finally there’s some depth to her. She starts becoming more believable as a character. That was what saved this book from getting a one star review!
What really didn’t help, for me, was how the book was written. I just couldn’t get on with Jenny Han’s writing style. If I hadn’t known from seeing stills from the movie that Lara Jean was meant to be sixteen-years-old when starting this book, I would have thought she was a pre-teen, because she seriously doesn’t act like someone who is old enough to drive. I found Lara Jean immature and extremely child-like, in particular in the beginning. I also didn’t gel with the dialogue; parts of it didn’t feel like a real conversation people would have. It made me feel like Jenny Han was too out of touch with teenagers. Plot she could write, but teenagers not so much. Ultimately, it was the writing style and how Han writes dialogue that ruined the book for me. I simply could not enjoy it.
I do feel disappointed in this. There was so much hype surrounding the series that I really did want to enjoy it. I may not have enjoyed it as much as others did, but I’d love to know your opinions. Have you read it? Did you enjoy it? And have you seen the film? Let me know in the comments below!