Monday, June 21, 2021

Summer Reading Book #3 -- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

When I saw To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on my summer reading list, I thought to myself, “This should be interesting.”  Let’s be honest: I am a (almost) 53-year old man, what could I possibly get out of this book? After all, I am not the target demographic. Right?

Wrong.

That’s the thing about books.  Books transport us to different places and people. Books allow us to experience, if just for a little bit, what it is like being someone else.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is told through the eyes of Lara Jean Covey, a junior in high school and the middle sister between Margot, who is just leaving for college, and middle-schooler, Kitty. They lost their mother many years before, and live with their doctor father, Dan Covey.

The plot is pretty simple: Lara Jean has written “letters” to crushes she had in the past. These letters are like a diary, never intended to be read or sent. She keeps them hidden in her closet in a hatbox that had been given to her by her mother. As you can expect, the letters are “mysteriously” sent and Lara Jean has to deal with the ramifications of these boys reading her thoughts about them. It’s pretty clear, though, how the letters got out from the get-go, but Lara Jean somehow fails to see it. 

Nonetheless, Lara Jean has to deal with the fact that her inner thoughts have now been read by people who were never supposed to read them in the first place. She ends up lying to protect her feelings. She forms a “fake” relationship with Peter, one of her first crushes. She has to deal with the complicated fact that one of her crushes was Josh, her older sister’s former boyfriend. This story has been told many times before in many different ways, especially when the fake relationship with Peter begins to turn real.  I was immediately reminded of Cyrano de Bergerac. Much Ado About Nothing. Not to mention 90s movies Pretty Woman and While You Were Sleeping, plus countless other YA novels. 

It is not that trope that I found endearing about this book. It was the authenticity of Lara Jean and, in particular, the relationship she has with her family. That is what stands out for me.

“We are the three Song girls. There used to be four. My mom, Eve Song. Evie to my dad, Mommy to us, Eve to everyone else. Song is, was, my mom’s last name. Our last name is Covey—Covey like lovey, not like cove. But the reason we are the Song girls and not the Covey girls is my mom used to say that she was a Song girl for life, and Margot said then we should be too. We all have Song for our middle name, and we look more Song than Covey anyway, more Korean than white. At least Margot and I do; Kitty looks most like Daddy: her hair is light brown like his. People say I look the most like Mommy, but I think Margot does, with her high cheekbones and dark eyes. It’s been almost six years now, and sometimes it feels like just yesterday she was here, and sometimes it feels like she never was, only in dreams.”

Excerpt From: Jenny Han. To All the Boys I've Loved Before. Chapter 2

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There are two sequels to the novel: P.S. I Still Love You (2015) and Always and Forever, Lara Jean (2017). These two sequels are also available in the ARC. 

Plus, Netflix adapted the book into a movie in 2018. 



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