Way back in April, the Top 10 Tuesday theme was “__ Books That Make Me Laugh Out Loud.” – I did Middle Grade Fantasies That Make Me Laugh Out Loud, of course. But some other book blogger I stumbled upon (mea culpa! I didn’t write down her name!) in exploring the other people who’d signed up had put the first of these books on her list. It had been on my radar since it first came out, but being contemporary and realistic, had never quite made it to the top of the list. This pushed me into actually checking it out and starting it on my break that day.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. Simon & Schuster, 2014.
This book starts out awfully sad for a book billed here as funny. High school junior Lara Jean Covey is the middle of the three Song girls – Song being their deceased mother’s middle name. That sad event happened several years ago, but they are still feeling the pain. Now oldest sister Margot, who’s kept the family running while their doctor father is at work, is leaving for college in Scotland. She’s breaking Lara Jean’s heart by breaking things off with long-time Josh next door – Lara Jean is afraid that Josh will no longer be the close family friend he’s been for so many years.
The humor comes a bit later. Ever since eighth grade, Lara Jean has written letters to boys she had crushes on when she’s decided it’s time for her to get over them, detailing all the things she loved about them. They’ve lived in a hat box in her room – but now the hat box is gone, and boys are coming to her at school, ancient letters in hand. Josh gets one. Super-handsome athlete Peter Kavinsky gets one. Choices are made to stop the flood of embarrassment that only make sense to a hormone-fueled teenage brain.
This is definitely a teen romance, and despite the decidedly made-up situation, it has the solid ring of truth underneath it. Lara Jean’s life is filled with many things beyond boys, including her love of baking and her discomfort with driving, having just learned to do so. Her circle includes fleshed-out family members and several friends, including strong-willed and temperamental younger sister Kitty, friendly Josh, and “bad girl” best friend Chris. While the drama feels relatable to any modern teen, Lara Jean’s part-Korean heritage is an important part of her family culture. Though the Korean may be more particular, the integration of old and new traditions felt familiar to me, as well. I fell in love with Lara Jean and went right on to the next book.
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han. Simon & Schuster, 2015.
Trying to stay as free from spoilers as possible – Lara Jean’s romantic life, which seemed beautiful at the end of the last book, is now developing wrinkles. The most romantic moment in her life was caught on video and published on the locally popular website Anonybitch. Lara Jean is quickly recognized and suffers the full force of modern opinions on teen girl’s sexuality, put through the wringer both for the modest nightgown she was wearing and being called a slut by fellow students and encouraged to do better by herself by teachers.
At the same time, Lara Jean is working at the nursing home, setting up dances and scrapbooking, while getting advice from seniors Stormy and Alicia on dating and life. Kitty has an expanding self-awareness, and she has decided to rope Lara Jean into trying to get their dad to date again.
This has the same heady mix of relationships romantic and not, ethical dilemmas, trouble and hilarity. I was very excited to read just last week that Han is writing a new one.