This review is spoiler free.
“You’d rather make up a fantasy version of somebody in your head than be with a real person.”
Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Published: 2014, by Scholastic.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Fiction
Contains: Death, Strong Language, Anger, Alcohol, Bullying
‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ follows sixteen-year-old Lara Jean, whose life is turned upside down after letters to old love interests are given out without her permission. Hidden away in a hatbox her mother gave her are letters written to every guy she’d ever loved, as a somewhat goodbye while moving on from them. However, when the box goes missing and the letters end up in the hands of their addressees, Lara Jean’s life becomes incredibly more complex.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. There’s been so much hype surrounding the series, especially after the success of the Netflix adaptation, so I delved into it expecting something that lived up to the talk. However, I was just left disappointed.
Lara Jean, to put it simply, is a bad protagonist. Her immaturity shines through from the first page, enough to make me believe she was much younger than sixteen. (which wasn’t mentioned until a quarter of the way through the book, by the way.) Being a sixteen year old with older siblings in relationships, it’s pretty easy to understand that falling hard for people and wanting a relationship herself would only be natural; however, Lara Jean takes this far too far. She is desperate for this fairy-tale romance, claiming she’s in love when the person in question may only have given her a side glance from the other side of the classroom. It doesn’t stop there, she cries at every mild inconvenience her way, even deciding whether to turn on the waterworks in attempt to get out of trouble with her father. (Note: she calls her parents Mommy and Daddy. At sixteen.) Being written in first person, Lara Jean rules the narrative, which didn’t help her childishness in the slightest; it was overly simplistic, to the point where I found myself skim reading and still managing to piece together the plot.
Lara Jean is also the most irritatingly privileged protagonist I’ve ever read. After her sister, Margot, moves away, she claims that she’ll have to step up and be the adult of the family now… but surely she should be already having some responsibilities – or knowing when to pick up groceries at least – at sixteen years of age. So, you mean to tell me, her older sibling of 1-2 years dealt with all the household responsibilities alone after the death of their mother, while allowing a sixteen year old – more or less an adult – to continue to live in her dream world instead? How much of an airhead is this girl?
The majority of the other characters also fell flat for me. Peter Kavinsky, the name everyone talks about, is arrogant throughout the entire novel, while their so-called romance was forced to the extent of non-existent. Chris’s presence in the story was simply to be Lara Jean’s polar opposite and slut-shame every other female presence within the novel. Josh was so two-dimensional, I could tell you nothing about his character other than the fact he was part of a love-triangle. (Note: An ex of a sibling is an immediate no, I don’t care how attractive you find them. It’s gross.) In all honestly, Kitty and Margot were the only reason I continued this story to completion. Kitty’s remarks and Margot’s common sense was something of a beacon, trying to guide me through the pages as quickly as possible. They were the most realistic characters within the book, and I loved reading about them more than the actual story.
The plot itself was kinda bland. It was simply too slow paced. Throughout the four-hundred pages, only around one-hundred of them seemed to care about the missing letters, while the rest was concentrating on which boy Lara Jean seemed to like to most. This book could easily have been around 100-200 pages less.
Overall, this book just wasn’t for me. The characters were exhausting, the plot was near enough non-existent and the narrative was just too childish for me to handle. Although, there is another two books within the series, the ending of the first instalment just isn’t enough for me to pick up the other two.