My daughter is 14, and all of sudden this year I couldn’t go 6 seconds without hearing the words “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” I think she watched it on Netflix 50 times with her friends. I watched it, too. It was adorable.
And I wanted to know more about Lara Jean and Peter, so off to the library I went, picking up all three volumes of their saga.
At this point, pretty much everyone knows the story:
Lara Jean is half-Korean, and lives with her dad and two sisters near Charlottesville, VA. Her mom died in a tragic accident years ago, and her dad tries very hard (but not always successfully) to keep their Korean traditions alive and well at home. Big sister Margot is leaving for college in Scotland, and breaks up with her long-time boyfriend and next-door neighbor, Josh. Little sister Kitty is a spitfire who loves tv and holds amazing grudges.
It turns out that Lara Jean has a secret box of letters that she wrote — but never sent — to all of the boys she ever fell in love with. And those letters MYSTERIOUSLY (oh, hi, Kitty) get mailed out, putting Lara Jean in a tough spot, as one of those letters was written to Josh.
She gets Peter (another letter recipient, and old friend) to pretend to be her boyfriend so that Josh won’t think she still has feelings for him.
OF COURSE Lara Jean ends up having real feelings for her fake boyfriend, but fake boyfriend is having trouble getting over his ex, Genevieve (who used to be Lara Jean’s best friend).
Over the course of the three books, Lara Jean and Peter figure out how they really feel about each other, decide to be a real couple, and have their very intense ups and downs.
There is a ridiculous sub plot about a video posted to social media, where Lara Jean and Peter are making out in a hot tub.
There is another ridiculous sub plot about a dance at a retirement home, and Lara Jean going with John Ambrose McLaren, yet another boy who received a love letter in the mail.
And the worse subplot is about where Lara Jean and Peter will go to college. He gets in to UVA and assumes she’ll go there as well. And he GETS MAD when she doesn’t get in and decides to go to UNC. ARGH.
But as much as these three subplots were ridiculous and annoying, the thing is, I really enjoyed these three books. They were fun and light, even when they were talking about serious and heavy topics. Peter and Lara Jean seemed like teenagers — they made dumb choices and said stupid things and didn’t really know how to manage their feelings or communicate their thoughts very well. I liked that.
I loved the way that Lara Jean and Kitty (and Peter) supported their dad when he decided to marry the neighbor, kooky Mrs. Rothschild. And I appreciated that Margot — who hadn’t been around while her dad and Mrs. Rothschild fell in love — resented the engagement and wasn’t interested in the wedding.
I liked Lara Jean’s friendships with Chris and Lucas and Peter’s friends on the lacrosse team. I liked that Lara Jean and Peter were in love and planning a future together without having sex be a part of that equation. Lara Jean and Kitty were smart and funny girls (and Margot, but she isn’t around that much) who were being well raised by a great dad. What’s not to like?
I’ll check out some of Jenny Han’s other books, and i’ll for sure watch the movie sequel when it comes out on Netflix next year. Hooray for the resurgence of the Rom Com!