Book Review: Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”

Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has gained momentous amounts of attention and praise ever since its release in 2014.

The book follows 16-year-old Lara Jean as she is forced to venture into the real world when her sister, Margot, leaves for college and Lara Jean is now the “mother of the house”. Since Lara Jean’s mother passed away while she was a child, the book really highlighted the values of family and supporting one another. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book was seeing how close the family was even if some members lived far away. They had inside jokes, family activities, family dinners, and never had any secrets.

Ever since Lara Jean was a kid, she would write letters to the boys she liked and store them in her mother’s teal hatbox. She would write these letters to let go of her emotions. There are five letters in total: Josh, Margot’s ex-boyfriend, Peter, Lucas James, John Ambrose McClaren, and Kenny.

One day, all these letters get mailed out to people by an anonymous person. Through this catastrophe, she decides to start a fake relationship with Peter so she can convince Josh that she is not in love with him and so that Peter can win his ex-girlfriend back. Lara Jean is forced to take risks by being with Peter and finally experiences the real world. While pretending to be in love, these two eventually fall in love. Peter brings out a different side of Lara Jean, one she never knew she had.

Another reason why people, including myself, found this novel to be super exciting is because of the chemistry between the characters Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky. They had many cute moments together such as going to estate sales and ski trips together to their dialogue with one another. Anyone who read the book was bound to fall in love with the characters. Jenny Han’s writing style which was simple yet sweet making the characters more understandable and raw.

As I would read the book, I could clearly picture in my head what the characters were doing and their emotions. The characters were extremely well developed and each one clearly had their struggles and their strengths. The character I resonated with the most was Lara Jean because she was an introvert who often lived in her own fantasies without a care in the world.

Another reason why I enjoyed the book so much is because of the representation of Asian Americans in the novel. Being an Indian, I really value diversity in the books and movies because they should be a representation of the people you find in real life. I was delighted to see Jenny Han stress Lara Jean’s Korean roots even after her mom passed away. Throughout the book, there are many references to Korean culture such as food and traditions. This book was relatable to many Asian Americans because they finally saw themselves in a character.

Finally, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before underlines the message of standing up for yourself when Lara Jean faces a hard time in school after a false accusation. The entire situation made Lara Jean find strength in herself even though she was portrayed as “the girl with no shame”. This part of the story really showed how words can be easily twisted and how those words can affect you. I loved how they showed Lara Jean becoming stronger as a result of the situation.

Overall, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is an excellent read for anyone because of its comedy but also because of its underlying messages of taking risks and valuing yourself and the people around you.

Peter Kavinsky and Lara Jean Covey in the Netflix Original To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
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