To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A few years ago, I read “The Summer I Turned Pretty” and pretty much hated it. I didn’t think I’d ever read anything by this author again, but this was chosen for one of my book clubs, and my library had the audio, so I grabbed it one day. I was drawn in right away by the strong sisterhood element and the lovable main character.
(view spoiler)[ It’s funny, because when I started this book and Lara Jean, our heroine, got to the scheme with Peter, I thought, “You know, in most romantic comedies, they’d set up this plot to make their exes jealous and end up falling in love. But obviously that’s not going to happen here.” (hide spoiler)]
Even though the plot is not terribly original, I have to give Han props for completely surprising me. By the time Lara Jean realizes she likes Peter, of course I’d realized it a long time before. But at first, it was the last thing I could imagine. The author does a fantastic job of revealing Peter’s character and slowly revealing Lara Jean’s preconceptions and misconceptions.
Lara Jean was sort of naïve, but strong and spunky, too. She was a good girl who didn’t let people walk all over her—very rare in romances. I liked that she was real, that she liked baking and scrapbooking instead of running around getting drunk. Not that I don’t also enjoy books like that, but it’s refreshing to find a character that is so believable as a typical high school student. So typical, in fact, that you might think she’d be boring. But she wasn’t. She was adorable. Also, I have to say, I loved Peter. I loved that he was just as real as Lara Jean. He was sometimes grumpy, and always running late, and said stupid things. But he was also funny and sweet, and it was equally refreshing to find a book where the popular guy wasn’t a man-whore or a player or a bully. He was a totally normal guy, and I loved that about him as much as I loved it about Lara Jean.
This isn’t a book that will change your life with its profound message or glorious writing. The writing wasn’t noticeable (which means the story is good), and it was just a fun, sweet book. A fluffy read of the feel-good variety I usually find so insipid. I was a little embarrassed by how much I liked this cookie-cutter romance. Like I always say, if I don’t like the characters, I won’t like the book. Well, the opposite is also true. Give me the most overused, Cinderella cliché of a plot, and I’ll barely notice if you can make me fall in love with three-dimensional, real, non-cliché characters first. This book nails it.
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