Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review - To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1
Author: Jenny Han
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Pages: 288
Goodreads Rating: 4.06/5 Stars
My Rating: 3/5 Stars
My Content Rating: PG-13 (Some references to sex, but nothing shown)

Summary from Goodreads: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I really wanted to loved this book.  I had read so many raving reviews and it sounded like the type of sweet romance that would make me happy.  But, for some reason, it fell flat for me.  I enjoyed parts of the book, but I was never quite behind the romance. And once the book was over, I was left with a sort of "Was that it?" feeling.

When Lara Jean's secret love letters somehow get mailed, it turns her life upside down. The worst letter is the one that she had written to her sister's (newly) ex-boyfriend. She knows that her crush on Josh could cause her, Josh and her sister all pain. So, in order to cover up her feelings for him, she pretends to be dating someone else - another recipient of one of her letters (her first kiss, Peter).  Peter agrees to the arrangement because he wants to make his ex-girlfriend jealous.

What I enjoyed:
  • The family relationships.  Despite the way it sounds, this book wasn't just about the romance. In fact, in my opinion, the best thing about the book was the complexity of Lara Jean's family relationships, especially with her older sister. Lara's older sister has spent much of her pre-teen and teen years filling in for their mother, who died. This has created a really interesting dynamic between the two girls - both bringing them closer, but also causing Lara's sister to bottle her emotions in many ways. Lara's little sister is also a wonderful character and I loved the sweet way that both Josh and Peter bonded with her!
  • Diversity! Yay for a multi-ethnic main character! Lara and her sisters are half-Korean. I loved that the family worked to hold on to that ethnic connection not just because it made up part of who they were but also because it gave them a link to their mother. (Again, deepening those family relationships!)
Not so crazy about:
  • The love triangle. This was my real problem with the book. The romance. Don't get me wrong - there were points where I was enamored with both Josh and Peter and I saw how they could be good for Lara. But with both guys there was something major that just made a relationship with Lara feel ... wrong. With Josh, his relationship with Lara's sister was an obvious barrier. Something that just wasn't able to be overcome. For Peter, I had more hope, but his attachment to his ex-girlfriend just made me squirm and I could never quite get behind him and Lara together. I wanted to root for one of these guys, but I just never completely got there.
  • The ending.  The ending of this book left me a bit cold. It just didn't feel like anything was really resolved. We're told that Lara has a feeling that everything is going to be okay - and then it ends. Um, okay? I wasn't convinced.  BUT, I will say that I was surprised to see that there is another book - so maybe this book was left this way as kind of a cliffhanger? I will read the next book to find out what happens next and to see if Han develops the romantic relationships more.
    So, I guess I wasn't as enamored with this book as I wanted to be. I liked it, but didn't love it. There are plenty of people who did love it, though, so I definitely wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading it. For me, it was 3/5 stars.

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    Want another opinion? Check these out!
    The Escapist - 5 Stars
    Bookables - 4 Stars
    Happy Indulgence - 3 Stars
    The Book Nookery - 2 Stars