title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
author: Jenny Han
date: Simon and Schuster; April, 2014
main character: Lara Jean Song Covey
I began this book expecting a nice, light summer story; one of those good romances that I haven’t read in a very long time
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has such a sweet start. Oldest sister, Margo, is about to leave for college in Scotland and her sisters are going to miss her dearly. The girls are tender in their relationships and delicate with each others’ feelings. Their mother is deceased but to the girls still refer to her as ‘mommy’ and their father as ‘daddy’. Margot has been the family’s caretaker and her leaving is a major shift in the structure of the home. We get small clues of the shift when Lara Jean’s coffee isn’t just right and then, she has a car accident.
Lara Jean is in love with the idea of love. She’s a high school senior with a sense of innocence. Lara writes love letters to boys she’s loved since childhood, letters that she never intends to share with anyone. Now as a teenager, she’s always manages to avoid any opportunity for real romance and the only reason she finally has a relationship with a boy is because she stumbles into it.
With her older sister gone, Lara no longer has a shadow in which to hide so, she has to figure out her relationship with Josh (the boy next door who is very much a part of the family), Peter (the dreamboat), Chris (her most unlikely boyfriend) and even with her sisters. We often don’t realize that as we grow and change, our relationships must do the same. We need and perceive people in different ways. This change isn’t always subtle or easy no matter how special the relationship, as Lara Jean finds out.
There’s a specific kind of fight you can only have with your sister. It’s the kind where you say things you can’t take back. You say them because you can’t help but say them, because you’re so angry it’s coming up your throat and out your eyes; you’re so angry you can’t see straight.
As soon as Daddy leaves and I hear him go to his room to get ready for bed, I barge into Margo’s room without knocking. Margot is at her desk on her laptop. She looks up at me in surprise.
In defining these relationships, Han builds strong consistent characters, except for Josh, the boy next door. He was never more than the all around good guy. Other characters in the story are revealed in their actions, conversations and through other characters. Certainly, one of the strengths of this book is Han’s ability to develop her characters.I was given room to not like elements of many of those I read about while still becoming invested in them and wanting to know their outcome.
Lara Jean’s bi-cultural heritage was an integral part of the story. She was very much just one of the gang but things like the way she prepared for Halloween reminded us of her Korean background.
I thoroughly enjoyed To All The Boys. This story that seemed so smarmily sweet incorporated tough issues that many of us experience at one time or another in our relationships. I read an ARC that had a few spots that needed to be repaired, but I hope and pray the ending did not change!