Book & Movie Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
“Love is scary: it changes; it can go away. That's the part of the risk. I don't want to be scared anymore.”
I have been back on a YA kick lately and with all the love and hype for the Netflix movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I had to pick up the book of the same name by Jenny Han. Y’all. I cannot express enough how much I adored this book. It is everything I want in a YA romantic comedy book. Lara Jean Song Covey is a romantic, and even though she has never had a boyfriend, she has had five intense crushes. When she tries to get over her crushes, she writes a letter to each boy and keeps them in a hatbox in her closet. Somehow those letters get mailed to the five guys. Lara Jean’s first kiss Peter Kavinsky, one of the most popular boys in school, confronts her about his letter. Lara Jean panics when she also sees that Josh, her older sister Margot’s ex-boyfriend, also got his letter. So Lara Jean and Peter decide to fake date, in order to make Peter’s ex-girlfriend Gen jealous and so Lara Jean can keep Josh decidedly in the friend zone. Though Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship begins as fake, things begin to change as the months pass by.
Lara Jean’s family is one of the cutest families I’ve ever read. Lara Jean is the middle sister; Margot just started at St. Andrews University, and her younger sister Kitty is nine years old. Their mom died six years prior to the beginning of the book; Dr. Covey is a wonderful dad, but relies on Margot and Lara Jean to take care of things at home because he is often at the hospital delivering babies. The Covey girls are half-Korean, but the issue of race is not at the forefront at the book; it’s just something that is a part of them. It was really touching that Dr. Covey tries to cook Korean food in honor of their mom and tries to keep the girls in touch with their Korean culture. I love that even though the Covey girls have lost their mom, the whole family makes it a point to be there for each other, no matter what.
In the book, Josh and Lara Jean have a lot more interaction than they do in the movie. I liked Josh at first, but witnessing the chemistry between Lara Jean and Peter quickly me had me switching to Team Peter. At the beginning, Peter tends to display his jock behavior, but quickly, Lara Jean remembers why she had a crush on him all those years ago. He is so sweet, and his friendship with Kitty is incredibly swoon-worthy. One of my favorite scenes is when Peter and Lara Jean head to an estate sale for his mom’s antique shop. It is one of the first times that they’ve spent more than an hour or so together. And it’s so darn adorable.
Peter Kavinsky is dream boyfriend material, and so much has been written about all the Peter Kavinsky love on the internet. But Lara Jean needs to get her due because she is such a relatable heroine (even though I'm over a decade older). She is super messy, deeply loyal to her family and few friends, and a romantic, even though she doesn’t have a lot of experience. She is introverted, which you don’t see a lot of in romantic comedies. Jenny Han said Lara Jean was inspired somewhat by Beth March from Little Women, which I think is amazing. So many contemporary female protagonists are based on either Meg or Jo, but Beth is almost always overlooked. Lara Jean is such a lovely character and even when there were times I wanted to shake her and tell her to just talk to Peter about her feelings, I know deep down, if I was in the same boat, I would act exactly as she did.
Now for the incredible Netflix adaptation. I was very eager to see the movie, but after finishing the book, I was a little nervous if it would live up to the amazing book. And boy, did it ever! The movie is very close to the book, with a few of the only major differences being they are in Oregon, instead of Virginia, and Kitty is now 11 instead of 9. Other than those minor changes, it was very true to the book. Lana Candor is the perfect actress to play Lara Jean, and I could not think of a better Peter Kavinsky than Noah Centineo, who is basically just a young Mark Ruffalo. John Corbett is Dr. Covey! Kitty is my new favorite side character; she's so precocious and sassy, but at the same time, idolizes both Lara Jean and Margot. I am here for all of it. The movie was wonderful, and I plan to rewatch it over and over!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before should be the gold standard for YA rom-coms. The book is delightful, and the movie is an instant classic. If you haven’t watched the movie, go do so immediately. And if you haven’t read the book, what are you waiting for? As soon as I finished the book, I got on Amazon and bought the next two books in the trilogy, but they are on backorder and won’t be here for another week. What am I supposed to do in the meantime?! Until those books arrive, I'll just be watching the movie on repeat and finding Peter Kavinsky gifs (because you know, research). I absolutely adored the book and the movie. I give both 5 stars!
What other YA rom-coms do you enjoy?