Friday, July 28, 2017

Series Review: To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

I continually tell myself that I am not a contemporary genre person. Here and there, I've read contemporary novels. Some I've enjoyed, but most I have not. Especially if they're YA. A lot of the YA contemporary tropes infuriate me so much that it's not worth reading. However, there are exceptions. And every time I say I am not a contemporary genre person, a contemporary novel proves me wrong.

Such is the case for To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han. This series is pure fluffiness. Not fluff, as in trivial or superficial or without meaning/point. Fluffy. As in cute and adorable. As in I want to squish every character in a big hug. As in I want to be best friends with Lara Jean (and Kitty).  As in I want to bake tons of goodies and eat them all while watching cute, fluffy Disney movies. As in I want to smash the books together as if they're my new OTP, like...

You get the point.

I heard about To All the Boys I Loved Before a while ago. I was even intrigued by the plot, despite my usual judgmental looks toward the contemporary romance genre. But I just never read it. Until I heard (more like was bombarded) with all the hoopla about the unexpected, but definitely wanted, third book. So then, I realized, I had to read the series.

And I'm so glad I did.

Like I said before, these books are filled with so much fluffy adorableness I'm genuinely surprised I enjoyed it. (Give me all the dark, stabby, dragon-esque, action-y stuff and I'll be happy.) But there were so many things about these books that I adored that I was able to get past the things I wasn't so keen on.

First, Lara Jean. I wish I could be her best friend. In fact, if I had gone to high school with her, I'd probably be her best friend. She was hilarious and fun and super adorable. Sometimes she was innocent and naive, maybe even a bit crazy about boys and immature about stuff that happened, but honestly, I felt connected to Lara Jean. When I was in high school, I was like Lara Jean. I was oblivious to a lot and naive about a lot, but I survived. And Lara Jean survives. (Plus, Lara Jean agrees with me that Gilbert Blythe is the perfect man.)

Second, I love how much she focuses on baking and food in general. These books were so delicious to read. You cannot read these books without craving-or eating--something sweet. Brownies, cookies, cake, even waffles! Most of the time when books focus on food so much it's trite or boring or way too much unnecessary detail you want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork, but not for these books. These books did it right. They had the perfect blend of food to make the world feel real. (Also, we need more books that do food right because, wow, delicious.)

Third, Lara Jean's family. I'm not Korean, and I haven't read that many books or watched that many shows/movies with Korean characters. (It's actually a crime.) But I freaking adored Lara Jean's family, from her quirky younger sister to her very white dad to her sophisticated older sister. Can we talk about these sisters though? Sister relationships in books are my absolute favorite, and I adored the sister dynamics in these books. I can sense that Jenny Han must have sisters because it felt so real and relateable to my own sister relationship. I love how things change and stretch between the three Song girls but also how they still come together, still love one another, and always pick each other first (especially over boys). It was fantastic. Kitty was golden. I aspire to be like her someday. And you gotta love their poor dad. He tries so hard. He deserves an award.

Fourth, the concept. I don't know about you, but the idea of someone mailing ex-love letters to boys you once loved is not only horrifying, it's hilarious. And this book was hilarious. I adored reading about Lara Jean trying to juggle the worst moment of her life and her feelings for each of the boys in turn. Some were easier than others, and some changed a lot. And I just loved that it felt realistic and natural. There wasn't an instant "happily ever after." None of her relationships were perfect, but it worked out. And while I was leaning more toward one boy than the other (ayyyy John Ambrose McClaren), I was satisfied with who Lara Jean ends up with. The ending of Always and Forever, Lara Jean was pure gold, and I probably cried. (Okay, I might have teared up. I don't really cry, frozen heart and all.) Plus, I feel like the way the characters were portrayed showed that they weren't perfect; they were human and they make mistakes and act like jerks and do stupid things. And I don't know. It was refreshing to read characters that come across that way instead of being absolutely perfect and magical like unicorns or something.

Anyways, there are probably like a thousand tiny details that I love about this series, but on to what I wasn't so keen on. These books talk about sex a lot. A lot. Which I guess... okay? They are teenagers in relationships, trying to figure things out. I wasn't really keen on it because it wasn't what I signed up for. But at least it did discuss protection and why people are having sex, so okay? That's better than just doing it on a whim without any forethought or whatever like a lot of YA. And SPOILER/ they don't actually do it by the end of the series! They almost do, but Peter stops them because he knows Lara Jean is doing it for the wrong reasons and he doesn't want that. And my goodness, it's possible! It's freaking possible for teenagers in a relationship for more than year to not have sex. /END SPOILER Thank you, Jenny Han. God bless you and America. But it did point out that guys and girls are treated differently when it comes to having sex and being in a relationship, which is good because I think that's something often overlooked in books and our society in general. The other things I didn't like were Margot (she was kind of annoying once she went to college), the Joshua plot line (Nope, no, no. Weird. Get out.), and sometimes Peter was a jerk. Like a real jerk. And I felt that his jerkiness in P.S. I Still Love You was completely out of the blue and just in there for "unnecessary drama" purposes so Lara Jean could have a fling with John Ambrose McClaren. Also, a few stereotypical things like ex-girlfiends=evil monster queens and girls have to be boy crazy and guys have to be sex crazy were eye-rolling worthy.

Overall, though, these books were just so fun to read. I laughed a lot while reading them, and they definitely left me feeling squishy and fluffy inside, which is sometimes difficult for me and contemporary YA. A+ for diversity, adorableness, and sister relationships. I could probably read ten more novels about Lara Jean and her misadventures with dating and life. (I mean, can we get Lara Jean visiting Korea? in college? planning her wedding? Please?) Plus, the series is being made into a movie, and they recently announced the cast with pictures and I'm just... it's going to be great! I'm excited.

If you're looking for a light, fluffy and adorable read with ridiculous antics, tons of pop culture references, and delicious food, read To All the Boys I've Loved Before and join in the adorbs!

~I checked out To All the Boys I've Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You, and Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han from my local library and chose to review them of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~

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