Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

“This is the moment I realize I don’t love him, that I haven’t for a while. That maybe I never did. Because he’s right there for the taking: I could kiss him again; I could make him mine. But I don’t want him. I want someone else. It feels strange to have spent so much time wishing for something, for someone, and then one day, suddenly, to just stop.”
book-boys

Blurb:

Lara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her, these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved

When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only.

Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control. 

 

If you’re having a pretty bad week, and you need a book that will make you smile, I highly recommend this book. It’s just one of those books where you can’t help but feel good and warm inside. It’s a fun, charming, and heartfelt read. While I was reading the book and even when I was done, I would smile to myself as I remembered the story. The main plot of the book is about Lara Jean and her complicated love life. However, I think it is the relationship of the three sisters and their family dynamics that make this book something special.After their mom died, the three sisters had to adjust and adapt. It was endearing to see how the sisters did everything they could to help out their dad and how their dad did his best to be a good parent to three girls. He tried hard to keep them in touch with their mom’s Korean heritage even if he wasn’t always successful, the three sisters would say that he was doing a great job.

“After Mommy died, we all had to realign ourselves. Everybody had new roles. Margot and I were no longer locked in battle, because we both understood that Kitty was ours to take care of now.”

Their mom dying made a big impact on the personalities of the sisters especially on Margot, the eldest sister. Margot suddenly had to mature and be the responsible one. She became the reliable, strong sister. Lara Jean was often described as dramatic, romantic and dreamy-eyed. Kitty, the youngest, was determined and free-spirited.

“Margot would say she belongs to herself. Kitty would say she belongs to  no one. And I guess I would say I belong to my sisters and my dad…”
“I really admire my little sister sometimes. She knows exactly what she wants, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get it. She’s shameless that way.”

I can’t even imagine not having my mom around, and so it was heartbreaking for me to see how Lara Jean would miss her mom and how she was so worried because sometimes she couldn’t remember her mom. The book shows us what it’s like for teenagers to have your mom die at such a young age.

“…no matter what I am doing in life, if Margot and I are in the middle of an argument, if I am about to get hit by a car, I will always stop and listen to a story about Mommy. Any detail, any remembrance that Margot has, I want to have it too. I’m better off than Kitty, though. Kitty doesn’t have one memory of Mommy that we haven’t given her. We’ve told her so many stories so many times that they’re hers now.”

We also see how the roles unintentionally assigned to the sisters at such a young age can be extremely difficult. It reminds us that even the bravest ones get scared. Even the strongest ones get tired. Even the most reliable ones can need help. It reminds us that sometimes you have to put aside your own feelings and emotions for the ones you love. Sometimes you have to the more patient one, the one who says sorry and comforts someone even if you’re that one that was hurt. It shows us that family and love is reliable, it’s the one thing that will always be there; it can conquer all.

“‘Take care if your sisters’ so that’s what I did, I’ve always tried to put you and Kitty first. Do you have any idea how hard it was being so far away from you guys? How lonely it was? All I wanted to do was come back home, but I couldn’t, because I have to be strong. I have to be… the good example. I can’t be weak. I have to show you guys how to be brave… because Mommy isn’t here to do it…But then I left, and it’s like you didn’t need me as much as I thought… You were fine without me.”
“I know what I should do. I should go comfort her, forgive her for real. It’s my turn to be the good example. To be the good big sister.”
“…sisters always find their way back to each other.”
We are sisters, and there’s nothing she or I can ever say or do to change that.”

The book shows how distance can make maintaining a relationship difficult, it can damage the relationship even. It can put this wall between two people. It shows us that communication is key, that you shouldn’t wait until you see each other again to update each other. It shows us that the little things in life are what we should be most grateful for. How it’s the little things that make up life.

“When someone’s been gone a long time, at first you save up all the things you want to tell them. You try to keep track of everything in your head. But it’s like trying to hold on to a fistful of sand: all the little bits slip out of your hands, and then you’re just clutching air and grit. That’s why you can’t save it all up like that. Because by the time you finally see each other, you’re catching up only on the big things, because it’s too much bother to tell about the little things. But the little things are what make up life.”

The plot follows Lara Jean’s everyday life, and we see how she matures and adapts.We see her optimism and it reminds us that being dreamy-eyed can be a good thing.  We see how she opens herself up to change even if it also means opening herself up to pain. Change can be so difficult because it is usually so unpredictable, so uncontrollable. When life is changing, it’s like we’re also losing control of our lives. We resist change because it’s scary, and it can be difficult to not know what will happen. However, it is only when we open ourselves up to change, that we also open ourselves up to love, adventure, and fun new experiences. Yes, it’s scary, but isn’t it worth it?

“I hate change more than almost anything.”
“…looking on the bright side of life never killed anybody.”
I don’t have to be so afraid of good-bye, because good-bye, doesn’t have to be forever.”
“I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to be brave. I want…life to start happening.”

We see the effects of Margot’s love life on Lara Jean, but also how their perspectives on love are so different.  Lara Jean’s approach to love is dramatic and romantic, while Margot’s approach is a bit more logical. We see how Margot puts her opportunities and her family over love. In a way, it is good advice to be in love more than once. It lets you grow and learn more from the experience. It lets you figure out what you really want, because if you’ve only been in love once, how will you know that that’s really what you want? Margot’s way of thinking reminds us that relationships shouldn’t bring you down and shouldn’t keep you from new experiences and adventures.

“I think you should fall in love at least twice in high school.”
“…try not to go to college with a boyfriend. She said she didn’t want me to be the girl crying on the phone with her boyfriend and saying no to things instead of yes.”
“To belong to someone – I didn’t know it, but now that I think about it, it seems like that’s all I’ve ever wanted. To really be somebody’s, and have them be mine.”

We see that even if Lara Jean is all dreamy-eyed and a romantic, she is still scared of love. She is afraid of the uncertainty and the risks that come with love. It’s true that it’s easier to love someone from afar or in your head, because then you can control what happens. You can make sure that you have a happy ending, at least in your head. Then when you’re done pretending, you move on.

“…in matters if the heart, there’s no predicting how a person will or won’t behave.”
“‘Do you think there’s a difference? Between belonging with and belonging to, I mean?’ ‘Sure. One implies choice; the other doesn’t.'”
“…it’s a lot of responsibility to hold a person’s heart in your hands.”
“You only like guys you don’t have a shot with, because you’re scared. What are you so scared of?… You’d rather make up a fantasy version of somebody in your head than be with a real person.”

It hurts much less when you love someone from afar. It lowers the chances of pain because everything is controlled. But then again, I think that loving someone from afar also lowers the chances of happiness, and attaining that magical feeling of love. Yes, love opens you up to pain, but it also opens you up to so much more. Love is always worth the risk.

“I think I see the difference now, between loving from afar and loving someone up close. When you see them up close, you see the real them, but they also get to see the real you.”
“Love is scary: it changes, it can go away. That’s part of the risk”

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9 thoughts on “Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

  1. Kate says:

    This is great! I really love the insights and learnings that you shared. I especially like what you said about change and love and I agree that it really is difficult but worth it. I really enjoy your blog, keep writing!

    Like

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