A Pretty Perfect Romance: 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' by Jenny Han
Did you guys hear that Little Women is now number eight on the list of Americans’ favorite books? Of course you did. I’m assuming that, like any sane person, you are always on the prowl for any news related to Little Women (either the book or the absolutely perfect Winona Ryder film). This only confirms my long-held suspicion that Little Women is the best book ever…or at least the book with the most lime-related drama.
Given the place that Little Women holds in my heart (and the place it holds in America’s heart), please know that comparing a book to Little Women is something I take seriously. I wouldn’t bestow that compliment on a book that didn’t deserve it. So when I say that Jenny Han’s absolutely fabulous To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before reminds me of Little Women, please know that I’m swearing on all that is good and holy (Marmee’s love, Beth’s charity, Laurie’s floppy hair) that this book is amazing.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before centers around Lara Jean Song, the middle sister in a motherless family. Her older sister, Margot, has been dating their next door neighbor, Josh, for so long that he’s practically a part of their family (also known as A TOTAL LAURIE). But when Margot breaks up with Josh right before she goes to college, Lara Jean realizes that the long-dormant crush she had on him is still definitely there.
Lara Jean is used to writing down her feelings in love letters that she never sends, but when all of her love letters actually get sent out to the former objects of her affection, she’s in a whole lot of trouble. Now the boys she had crushes on all know about her crushes–and, worst of all, one of those boys is Josh. The only thing more awkward than having a crush on your sister’s ex-boyfriend is when your sister’s ex-boyfriend knows you have a crush on him.
So, naturally, Lara Jean enters into the oldest rom-com trick in the book: the ol’ fake boyfriend. This is one of my favorite romantic comedy traditions, right up there on the list with “dating someone to win a bet but then actually falling in love with them.” Lara Jean’s fake boyfriend of choice is Peter Kavinsky. Lara Jean needs to convince Josh that she doesn’t still have a crush on him, and Peter needs to convince his ex-girlfriend that he’s so over her. Enter the fake relationship, which sounds perfect…except that things start to get a little complicated, as they tend to do in fake relationships.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is one of the sweetest romances I’ve read in a while. And this marks one of the very few times when I actually didn’t know what was going to happen in a romance. I’m not bashing the predictability of romances–in fact, that’s what I love about them–but Jenny Han really threw me for a loop with this one by creating a realistically complicated romantic situation that couldn’t be easily tied up in a fancy bow. I probably shouldn’t be surprised by this, since her The Summer I Turned Pretty series is just as complicated and awesome. I can’t recommend this one highly enough to you guys. If you like the realistic romances of Stephanie Perkins or Sarah Dessen, you’ll love To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
-The main reason To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before reminded me of Little Women is that it’s all about sisters. Margot is the capable older sister (a real Meg), and Lara Jean’s sometimes-bratty little sister Kitty is a total Amy. Although my recap of the book above mostly focused on the romance, the dynamic between the sisters is a huge part of the book.
-There is SO MUCH FOOD in this book, and I loved it. Christmas cookies, mocha sugar donuts and delicious-sounding Korean dishes. I baked a pan of Drunk Blondies while I was reading this book, and I can only blame Jenny Han for my sweet tooth.
-On a more superficial note, how gorgeous is that cover? It’s perfect.
What about you guys? Have you read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? Are you Jenny Han superfans too? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.