To All The Boys I've Loved Before (To All The Boys I've Loved Before #1) by Jenny Han
Rating: 4 stars
We all remember those days back in high school when all we used to dream about was our first love and how wonderful it would be, the crushes we'd have on that special boy and how perfect life would be if he just noticed us. An innocent time before the reality of serious relationships moved in and we began worrying about if we'll ever get married or if we will wind up an old cat lady forever. This book is the essence of all those feelings wrapped up in one wonderful narrative.
To All The Boys I've Loved Before is Lara Jean's story. Lara Jean is a high school junior and the middle daughter of the Song sisters. She, her elder sister Margot and younger sister Kitty are all being raised by their dad after the death of their mother some years before. A strong and close family they all look out for one another but change is coming as Margot prepares to leave home to study abroad in Scotland. Lara Jean is a quiet, quirky teen who knows she will need to step up more when her sister leaves and take on more responsibilities and be there even more for her little sister Kitty. With her sisters (ex)-boyfriend living across the street, she is nervous about how their relationship will change and whether he will still come round after Margot leaves.
Lara Jean is a dreamer, she wants to be loved and over the years as she's developed crushes on different boys she pens them a love letter with all the feelings she has about them and then instead of posting it she hides it in a hatbox in her bedroom. This is fine until the day that the letters are posted out by mistake and suddenly all the boys Lara Jean has loved before start getting their love letters and suddenly Lara Jean has to face them knowing they've read all her deepest, most truthful feelings about them.
This book is the first in a trilogy dedicated to following the life of Lara Jean. The final book was only just published earlier this month. A huge success it has garnered lots of fans around the world because of it's lighthearted moments, strong family values and emotional writing style. I read a few people who said that they found Lara Jean to be an annoying character, overly naive and too young for her years but their criticisms have been far outweighed by those who've said they find it to be endearing and great contemporary young adult fiction. I personally loved Lara Jean's voice in this novel, she did have an innocence about her which whilst some people could perceive as immaturity I found to be refreshing that she wasn't an attention seeking, limelight loving teen with overconfidence and mean girl tendencies. Instead, the focus is on her family, she puts them first. She is sweet and thoughtful and favours a few close friendships over being the popular kid in school and rather than find this awkward she is okay with that.
In fact, I found Lara Jean to be a delight and I fell in love with her family as well. Many teen books can tend to portray the parental figures as party poopers or people who lay the rules. In this book, Lara Jean has a close relationship with her father and he is an integral part of her life whose opinion is valued. I think this is a positive role model family to provide young teens reading this book with.
This book ends with a great cliffhanger ending which means that you are desperate to find out how things are going to progress into book 2 in the series, P.S. I Still Love You. It is full of characters who I would like to spend more time with. In this hot balmy summer days I know that I will find these great contemporary reads to pick up and fly my way through. The chapters are short and snappy and you sit down to read a chapter and before you know where you are you've read 5 or 6 and the book flew past so quickly which makes it just perfect summer reading. I know that at 40 years old I am way way beyond the intended target audience for this book but I really enjoyed being taken back to those innocent days where the most important thing you had to worry about was whether your first kiss was going to be that fireworks moment you had dreamed in your head and who that special boy was going to be.