What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?
Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song 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—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says 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.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before starts off sweet – Lara Jean’s life is being established as having an amazing loving family, two sisters Margot and Kitty, who are like dear friends to her, and the boy-next-door, Josh, who is practically a part of their family. Lara Jean is a shy girl who doesn’t come out with her feelings, so she instead has always written letters to her crushes to get it over with and stores them for safekeeping. But when her letters get mailed to the guys, and she has to hide her current feelings from Josh (who is also Margot’s ex), she gets drawn into an elaborate lie with another of her previous crushes, Peter Kavinsky.
At first, I thought it was adorable, you know – the pretend romance becomes real trope is cute in most situations. You wait for these two to stop denying their feelings and realize that they liked each other, or start to like each other and the fake romance becomes real, right? So, in the start, when Peter is acting like a dick, I thought maybe he is just overcompensating for being half in love with her? (I blame rom-coms for instilling this kind of thought in my head – we have been conditioned to treat terrible guys as still redeemable but that is a conversation for another time) But till the end of the book, I do not get any indication that he is interested in her because of her – it seems more like she is an attractive girl who is quite different from his controlling ex, and she happens to already like him, so he also likes her.
There is also the problem of character inconsistency – the Margot and Josh at the beginning of the book hardly match the ones at the end. Margot becomes distant from Lara Jean but she also blames her first for Josh kissing LJ (which is weird for Margot, because she seems like the kind of sister who wouldn’t be mad at her beloved younger sister over a boy she doesn’t even have feelings for anymore). And Josh becomes a weird jealous ex (for LJ) as the story progresses, when initially he comes across as her close friend who confesses he once had a crush on her, but was shown to be in love with Margot. Then there is Gen, who is an enigma for most of the novel – and no, I won’t accept the evil ex trope here. Surely there had to be more to her character than just being a catalyst. And there are two weird chapters just to introduce another boy, John, who is so obviously going to be in the sequel.
So while it was cute and adorable and mushy in nearly two-thirds of the book, and I had genuinely liked the portrayal of Lara Jean and her character, I wasn’t satisfied by the romance. Which, considering this is a freaking contemporary romance and basically the whole plot, is a sad disappointment. The cute moments just couldn’t make me forget how it was wrapped in the end, I’m sorry to say.
Is it diverse?
Lara Jean and her sisters are biracial and part-Korean.