To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
Published: April 22, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Source: ARC on loan from a friend
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all. [goodreads]
It's no surprise that I will read anything Jenny Han writes. She became an instant auto-buy author after I read her Summer series a few years ago. The way this woman writes speaks directly to my teenage heart. She knows just the right buttons to push in order to create the most delicious love affair one can have with a literary work. She is, in my eyes, the epitome of young adult contemporary literature. Her ability to write such authentic, realistic characters that a girl who is 16 and a woman who is 32 can relate to, is a testament to her craft. This new novel of her's is every bit amazing as I had hoped it to be, plus so much more.
Lara Jean is the middle sister to older Margot and little Kitty. These three girls hold a special bond, one I immediately identified with: they are motherless daughters. After losing their mother suddenly, and way too soon, these three girls had to grow up quickly and learn to rely on one another for much more than just sisterly advice. Their personalities shined through from beginning to end, leaving me to feel like I knew these girls and could identify them from any angle possible.
But it was Lara Jean's personality that struck a deep chord with me. She has always lived inside her hopelessly romantic mind, another element of the story I quickly identified with. She's written love letters to the boys she's been in love with, but they're more like personal journal entries to herself as a send off to when it's time for her heart to move on. Those letters were never intended to be read, by anyone, so when they accidentally get mailed to each boy, it becomes a mess of all messes.
Jenny Han's humor, along with a fresh new appeal, definitely comes across in this story. The relationships between Lara Jean and her sisters is the essence of what makes this story so grand. Being the youngest of 4 girls myself, I definitely related to these moments. I found myself wanting to go back in time and relive my own memories with my sisters.
I appreciated the fact that the story's synopsis doesn't divulge more information than descriptions about the boys who end up receiving the letters. It created a much more enjoyable reading experience because it left me wondering about the significance each of these boys would have in Lara Jean's life. It also presented a bit of a mystery, causing me to guess which boy would become more than just a letter of words and evolve into a real life love story.
From the authentic family relationships, to the well planned character development, TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE was like reading a love letter to my own literary heart. It poses all the makings of what allows this reader, and I'm sure many others, to fall in love with contemporary YA. This is truly Jenny Han at her finest.