Mundie Moms

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, Book Review

Written by: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Source: Purchased
Grade Level: 7 and up
Purchase: Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | Book Depository | amazon
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Rating: 5 out of 5 shiny scrapbooked stars

Synopsis: Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them... all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren't love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she's written. One for every boy she's ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

I need to admit a few biases right now -- I love any plot having to do with love letters and sisters. As an only child, I always wondered what it would be like to have an older or a younger sister, and Lara Jean has both. But, she also has a mom who died when her youngest sister was barely a toddler. Living in the perfect shadow of her older sister and in the proximity of her older sister's boyfriend, the boy-next-door Josh, makes life interesting for Lara Jean. Complicating the matter is the fact that her older sister has left for college and somehow the unsent letters to all of Lara Jean's crushes (including Josh) have been sent out.

Those of you who know my taste in books just gasped with me. I was hook-line-and-sinker-ed within the first few chapters. Jenny Han complicates and twists those family bonds so well that I felt like I could invite all the Song girls over for dinner and it would be like having old friends over for a drink. These girls know their roles -- the responsible oldest, the dreaming middle one and the pining-for-a-puppy youngest. But in Jenny's hands they are complex and completely three dimensional.

Jenny also handles that much maligned Love Triangle concept really well. I'm a fan of well executed love triangles, and I know even the biggest critics will love this one. As a reader, we are meant to fall in love with Josh, but Josh isn't always as dreamy a choice as he appears to be. Conversely, Peter (the big man on campus) isn't as stuck-up and jerk-ish as he appears to be. The blurring of these lines makes choices much more difficult and therefore much more realistic. I won't tell you who I was cheering for, but it may have to do with a certain boy in a hot tub who knows just the kind of donuts a certain girl likes. See? No spoilers.

Then there's Jenny's gorgeous phrasing and ability to convey the deepest sadness and disappointment as well as a poetic understanding of family ties. I think I highlighted more quotes in this story than I have in any other this year or last. Here's one of my favorites (from page 294):
When someone's been gone a long time, at first you save up all the things you want to tell them. You try to keep track of everything in your head. But it's like trying to hold on to a fistful of sand: all the little buts slip out of your hands, and then you're just clutching air and grit. That's why you can't save it all up like that.
Watching Lara Jean mature and step out of the spotlight of her older sister reminded me of so many of those "new chapter" moments in my own life. Those moments when I accepted changes, new people and yes, shocking developments. I'm placing this on my Share with the Kids bookshelf. In fact, I've already told my soon-to-be-sixth-grader about it. I have a feeling that she will love this story as much as her mama does.


  1. I absolutely loved this book! I liked how sweet it was, and I really loved how Jenny portrayed the relationship between the Song sisters.

    - Ellie of The Reading Slump

    1. Leanna - YES! You summed up exactly what I loved, too.

  2. I'm looking forward to this one, too. Like you, this hits all the notes I like in a YA contemporary.

    1. Stephsco - Oh, I hope you love it as much as I do!