Date Completed: 11/29/2016
To continue my trajectory down the YA sappy romance novel train, I picked up To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before from the library. I LOVED it. So sappy. So deliciously cheesy and honest. Jenny Han is a phenomenal YA author, and I just really want to read all of her books right now. I’m so happy I picked this book up. Ok, now to actually tell you why instead of just saying the same thing over and over…. I’m just so excited about it.
This is not the most unique plot you will ever read, this is true. However, Han creates this beautiful story about family, particularly about sisterhood and father-daughter relationships. She really hits the nail on the head in giving each member of the family their own wants, sorrows, personalities, and lives. They are not contingent on our protagonist, dear Lara Jean, but rather they move through and around her life living out their own beautiful lives.
Secondly, although Lara Jean does fall into some stereotypical roles of a teenage girl in YA romance novels, i.e. she is a virgin, has a rebellious best friend, not many friends because she’s nerdy and socially isolates herself, she is also a very well-rounded and compassionate character. I can see Lara Jean in myself and in friends of mine. She is innocent and trying her best. She often projects what she thinks others will say or do onto them, sometimes not being bold because she believes she already knows the answer and that that answer would be no. But what she discovers is that people aren’t going to say what she expects them to and that she should stand up for herself.
Finally, I did think her romances were cheesy. But they were also honest. Sometimes I don’t want to admit how easy it is to be into someone if you suddenly realize that maybe they are into you, but this is something that Lara Jean comes to recognize. Sometimes all it takes is the information that someone else likes you to help you open up your eyes to the possibilities of a relationship with them, and often I find more optimism than discouragement.
Also Han makes some really good observations about life. I was blown away by this tidbit,
“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.”
Also Han talks a bit about racism, particularly southern culture and white remarks towards Asian American people, as well as mentioning biracial identities and how ignored they are in the media. She brings up sexism and other forms of racism too, such as microaggressions, etc. And feminism! As well as a bit about LGBT rights…. so yeah, this was a very well-rounded book. Non of these were the focal points, but they are small topics for discussion, and having a Korean American protagonist is always a good thing.
So I would definitely say I will be finishing the series, and have in fact read the second book already, looking forward to the third! I’m curious about her other books as well and will make an effort to read those. Glad to discover her in my readings and so ecstatic to have her voice among the YA community right now.
Jenny Han is the author of at least nine books right now, just published the third in this series! Here is her website.