I fell completely in love with the Netflix film adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and immediately sought out the novels it was based on. To my horror, although not surprise, there was a mile long wait list at the library and the trilogy was sold out at Barnes & Noble. Luckily the box set came back in stock and I was able to binge read the series last week.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (4.75 Stars)
Lara Jean Covey lives in Virginia with her widower father and two sisters, Margot and Kitty; she is a bit of a dreamer and has harbored a secret crush on Margot’s boyfriend, Josh, who Margot dumps before she goes off to college. Over the years Lara Jean, a bit of a romantic, writes letters to the five boys she has loved in order to cope with her feelings but she never intends for anyone else to see them. Unfortunately they mysteriously get mailed right after her junior year of high school starts- including the one to Josh. One of the letters also goes to Peter Kavinsky who just broke up with his long term girlfriend and Lara Jean’s former best friend, Gen, and through a series of events found only in YA novels Peter & Lara Jean decide to fake date. They draw up a contract and act the part of the perfect couple to keep Josh from asking too many questions about the letter he received and to make Gen jealous.
“If love is like a possession, maybe my letter are like my exorcisms”
It sounds ridiculous so condensed but it is a cute premise and some how works. Lara Jean feels bad lying to everyone, especially her family, but she starts to form real feelings for Peter and, unable to tell him how she feels, it complicates their fake relationship. Eventually Peter tells Lara Jean he has a crush on her and she rejects him! We also learn it was Kitty who sent the letters in the first place.
Han has a knack for writing realistic high schoolers but I do think the charm of Noah Centineo in the movie elevates the character of Peter K.
Spoilers for Book 1 ahead:
PS I Still Love You (3.5 Stars)
I really enjoyed the second book which picks up right after the first one ends. Lara Jean and Peter reconcile and, now a real couple, are caught in a bit of a scandal after a video of them kissing in a hot tub on a school trip goes viral. Lara Jean thinks it was Peter’s ex, Genevieve, but he defends her and tells the whole school to leave his girlfriend alone. This essentially wraps up where the film left off.
“So I take Peter’s hand; I put it on my heart. I tell him, “You have to take good care of this, because it’s yours.”
Lara Jean gets a letter from a third boy she wrote a letter to, John Ambrose McClaren, explaining he didn’t get the letter right away because he had moved but it eventually made it to him and he was a bit flattered. They become pen pals and eventually meet face to face when Lara Jean gets her old elementary school group together to open a time capsule. The party also includes her best friend Chrissy and Peter, who invites Gen which upsets Lara Jean. The old friends, which includes two other neighborhood boys, decide to play a game called Assassins (everyone gets a name they have to tag out then they get that person’s target until only one person is left standing) with the grand prize being one wish. Lara Jean is determined to win and in her recon discovers Peter has been lying about how much time he is spending with Gen. Spoiler alert: Lara Jean and Peter break up which prompts John to make a move on Lara Jean who is too broken hearted to start a new relationship but is flattered by the attention
I really enjoyed the character of John Ambrose McClaren and really found myself rooting for him against the novel version of Peter K. I’d be interested to see if I have the same feelings about him during the inevitable film sequel or if Centineo’s popularity will inspire the screenplay writers to gloss over some of his less than charming parts in this novel.
I nearly forgot to mention Stormy! Lara Jean takes a job working at a retirement home and she befriends an elderly woman who regales her with stories of her amazing life and encourages Lara Jean to live her life to the fullest! Her life is entwined with Lara Jean’s in a way she didnt expect but probably won’t surprise the reader.
Spoilers for book 2 ahead:
Always and Forever, Lara Jean (3.25 stars)
The last, and weakest, book in the series fulfills my final bingo square- This is the End- and concludes the story of Lara Jean and Peter. This novel takes place about a year after the first two books; Peter and Lara Jean, who got back together at the end of PS I Still Love You are still together and waiting for college admissions to be announced. Lara Jean has a strained relationship with Peter’s mother, who hasn’t forgiven her for breaking his heart in the second novel, but Peter is still beloved in the Covey household. His relationship with Kitty in all three novels in particular is a fun distraction from all the teenage romance angst.
“Never say no when you really want to say yes.”
Genevieve is blessedly a non factor in this novel but the relationship of Lara Jean and Peter is never a smooth one. Their college plans hinge of Lara Jean making it into UVA, where Peter has a lacrosse scholarship, but things don’t go as planned. I appreciated the realistic approach Han took to the college admission process and the harsh reality that most couples are going to find themselves making diffuclts decisions about their relationships if they are at different schools.
There is also a side plot with Lara Jean’s father, Dr Covey, finding love and proposing to his girlfriend, Trina. This seemed like filler since the on and off again relationship between Lara Jean and Peter can only fill up so many pages but it gave us more time with Kitty and Dr. Covey.
Overall I really loved this series; despite the fantastical premise that got Peter and Lara Jean together the To All the Boys I Loved Before series is a wonderfully realistic depiction of young love. Jenny Han really captured the spirit of high school and I am happy with how things were wrapped up in Lara Jean’s life. I don’t think a fourth novel set in college would ever be necessary and thankfully doesnt appear to be in the works.
I will however be anxiously waiting for what Han does next.