After reading ‘Burn For Burn’ by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian just over a month ago, I couldn’t resist checking ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ out after finding it in my local library. I didn’t think I was going to love it, but I thought it was going to be a nice, fluffy contemporary read that I’d get through really quickly. But I was wrong; I absolutely adored this novel.
‘If love is like a possession, maybe my letters are like my exorcisms. My letters set me free. Or at least they’re supposed to.’
‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ follows Lara Jean Song Covey, a sixteen year old girl who writes letters to the boys that she loves, but keeps them for herself, never allowing them to see the light of day. But then one day the letters get mailed, and Lara Jean has to confront her past feelings before she can move on with her future ones.
In all honesty, I didn’t think it sounded like the most riveting of plots, but Jenny Han has this amazing writing style that just sucks you in, and once you start this book it is so hard to put it down. Generally I aim to read fifty pages of a book every day, but the first day I picked up this book I realised I’d accidentally read 300 pages in just a few hours, because it is just that addictive. I thought the direction of the plot was really obvious, but I still couldn’t wait to watch it all play out.
I don’t actually know what to write in this review, because there was nothing that I hated in this novel. The characters were all brilliantly written – I loved Lara Jean and I related to her so much (I think every girl will be able to relate to her, who hasn’t written a letter to their crush in a moment of pure infatuation?), so much so that I think she might be one of my favourite female contemporary characters of all time. I loved the contrast between Peter’s outward personality around school and his one-on-one conversations with Lara Jean, I loved bubbly and excitable Kitty and I loved crazy, rebellious Chris, the unlikely best friend.
I will admit, the only character I didn’t completely love was Margot. She seemed too cold and uncaring throughout the first half of the novel, but then after the reveal that Josh ‘tried’ to kiss Lara Jean she seemed to become an incoherent mess. The fact that Peter only said that Josh tried to kiss her, not that they actually kissed, should have made her angry at Josh, but she automatically accused Lara Jean of betraying her. Just because a boy tries to kiss you, doesn’t mean it’s your fault – Josh had his own mind, he knew what he was doing, and Margot should have blamed him rather than her sister. That was the only complaint I had, but then I’ve never discovered that my ex-boyfriend of two years has tried to kiss my sister, so I don’t know how you would react in that situation.
As well as loving most of the characters, I actually really enjoyed the plot. The sending out of the letters wasn’t dragged out throughout the entire novel – it happened, it was over – but the fact that the plot then focused upon the repercussions of the letters being sent out was very clever. Lara Jean running up to Peter in the corridor and kissing him was hilariously written, and I thought the entire fake relationship was equal parts endearing and funny. Peter and Lara Jean developing feelings for each other didn’t surprise me, but the fact that she put her feelings for Josh to rest so quickly shocked me, but in a good way. Too often in YA contemporaries the characters know where their true feelings lie but the try to feel the way that they think they should be feeling, so it was good that she just sat there and realised she was over him and it was time to move on. I actually think the quote that accompanied this was one of the ones I related to the most:
‘This is the moment I realize I don’t love him, that I haven’t for a while. That maybe I never did. Because he’s right there for the taking: I could kiss him again; I could make him mine. But I don’t want him. I want someone else. It feels strange to have spent so much time wishing for something, for someone, and then one day, suddenly, just to stop.’
That’s the thing that I think is special about Jenny Han’s writing. She knows how to take an emotion that everyone has felt at one point or another in their lives and verbalise it. That’s something I find very difficult to do – take all of the things that are inside and verbally communicate them in a cohesive fashion, but Jenny has a real talent for it.
The sequel, ‘P.S. I Still Love You’ will be coming out in a few months time, so I will definitely be reading that, and I can’t wait to see whether Lara Jean and Peter managed to sort everything out and stay together, how Jamie the puppy is getting on, whether Josh and Margot got over each other or got back together… I just feel so emotionally invested in all of these characters and I can’t wait to continue on with their stories soon.