There aren’t many young adult books featuring an Asian protagonist, so I was excited to start To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. The story is about Lara Jean, a mixed Asian girl who writes love letters to boys she loved. One day, those letters get sent out and she gets to deal with the aftermath.
I found the first book to be too much of a light read. It was all too fluffy and sweet, but I still gave her sequel book – P.S. I Still Love You – a chance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very satisfied after finishing both books.
Sweet Little Lara Jean
There are two kinds of girls in this world. The kind who breaks hearts and the kind who gets her heart broken.
I have split opinions about Lara Jean. She takes cares of her younger sister, likes to stay at home on the weekends, bakes in her free time, works hard in school, and is an all around sweet and innocent girl. I find that refreshing from all the other exaggerated high school fiction.
At the same time, her sweetness can get sickening and unbearably boring. By the end of the second book, I was wondering if she was a Mary Sue. And by Mary Sue, I mean a character who is idealized out of an author’s wishful fulfillment. Lara Jean is sweet, all the attractive male characters have a thing for her (but she doesn’t realize it, of course), and she lives a cookie-cutter life in what seems to be a white picket-fence neighbourhood.
Give me someone sweet with a bitter after taste. Give me someone with a little more substance. Give me someone who doesn’t get to live the life of a John Green novel please.
There’s a Korean word my grandma taught me. It’s called jung. It’s the connection between two people that can’t be severed, even when love turns to hate. You still have those old feelings for them; you can’t ever completely shake them loose of you; you will always have tenderness in your heart for them.
The relationship between Lara Jean and her childhood friend, Gen, is quite interesting. In the beginning, Gen is painted to be a beautiful but mean girl who gossips about Lara Jean when she starts dating her ex, Peter. After awhile, we find out that Lara Jean and Gen used to be best friends when they were younger.
Han reminds us of the friends we thought would be with us forever, but as we grow up, we see that our “best friends for life” can change into someone we don’t want to be with anymore. In the end, you are still connected by a shared past.
It was at that exact moment that I saw Peter walking down the hall toward me. He looked so good. He deserved his own background music.”
One of the biggest scandals in the book is when a video of Lara Jean kissing Peter in a hot tub is uploaded onto Instagram. Let’s stop for a second here and point out that Han also includes memes into this book, which is amazing but also makes me think, “Damn… this is definitely a newly published young adult fiction”.
Lara Jean’s sister, Margo, points out that hateful comments will be targeted at Lara Jean, but not to Peter. To explain this point, refer to the lock and key argument: “A key that can open many locks is a master key. A lock that is opened by many keys is just a shitty lock.”
I have nothing against Peter, but to me, it seems as if he gets away with a lot of things in both novels. For example, one of the reasons why Lara Jean and Gen stopped being friends was because Gen, who was dating Peter at the time, caught Peter and Lara Jean kissing. Years later, Peter still remains friends with Gen and ends up dating Lara Jean, while the two girls end up hating each other forever. Does that make any sense? Why doesn’t Peter get the boot for kissing Lara Jean and ruining their friendship?
I think I’m going to lay off on the young adult fiction for awhile. I can’t handle 16 year-old love triangles, they are too trivial for me to comprehend. Many times it felt as if Han jumped from “boo, my boyfriend skipped a lacrosse game for his ex” to “and my heart yearned for him so dearly it was as if my soul was created solely to love him”. The efforts to make it sound like a deep and insightful love story was not successful.
But I would’ve loved these books if I read them 5 years ago.