“When I write, I hold nothing back. I write like he’ll never read it. Because he never will. Every secret thought, every careful observation, everything I’ve saved up inside me, I put it all in the letter. When I’m done, I seal it, I address it, and then I put it in my teal hatbox.”
I absolutely loved this fun, heartwarming, adorable book! Lara Jean writes a letter to every boy she’s loved—signed, sealed, and addressed, these letters are how she says goodbye and is finally able to move on from these boys. But when Lara Jean’s letters are sent out, her entire world is turned on its head because one of the boys she’s loved is her best friend, Josh, the boy-next-door who also happens to be her sister’s ex-boyfriend.
“How was I supposed to know what’s real and what’s not? It feels like I’m the only one who doesn’t know the difference.”
Lara Jean brought me back to high school, to the days I felt invisible, where schoolgirl crushes were true love, and when petty drama was life altering. I’ve shied away from contemporary these past few years, but there is just something special about this book. Jenny Han just gets it. She understands the teen angst, the self-discovery, the importance of firsts, how monumental everything feels, the intensity, and the confusion. She gets teens in a way a lot of YA authors don’t.
The characters in this book were so true to life, and yes, Lara Jean is selfish and immature at times, but what teenager isn’t? And she doesn’t handle everything thrown at her in the best way, but what teenager does? I love her because of her imperfections, because she is a teenager who acts, thinks, and speaks like a teenager—something I’ve found lacking in a lot of contemporaries.
“It’s not like in the movies. It’s better, because it’s real.”
I can’t talk about this book without talking about the love triangle. I’m a sucker for the fake dating trope and I found myself giggling, blushing, and on the edge of my seat waiting to see if they’d fall for each other, if a love triangle would play out, and if so, how it’d resolve itself. I’m not going to spoil anything because the romance and the drama in this book are delicious, but that ending was cruel, and I need the sequel, P.S. I Still Love You now!!!
The other thing I love about this book is how present Lara Jean’s family is. So often in YA family dynamics are pushed to the side, but Lara Jean’s home life is integral to the story. Her home life and personal lives intersect all the time, and while I didn’t necessarily like the fact that so much of this book relies on Lara Jean previously having a crush on her sister’s ex, I thought it was handled very well, and throughout the book, it is constantly reinforced that sisters come first.
The one thing that didn’t sit well with me and is why I can’t give this book 5 stars is the handling of sex. Lara Jean treats sex as though it is something morally wrong unless it is with someone you love or are married to, and she straddles the line between conservative and full on slut-shaming too often for my personal taste. I think it is so important to have sex-positive books like Laura Stevens’ The Exact Opposite of Okay and I like that we have a sex positive character like Chris, but she is still looked down upon and treated like the train-wreck character. I get this book was published four years ago and there’s been a huge shift in how we talk about sex in YA, but I don’t feel right giving this book 5 stars when I’m a huge advocate for talking about sex positively in YA.
“Love is scary: it changes; it can go away. That’s part of the risk.”
Overall, I am so happy I finally picked up this book and am even more excited for the Netflix movie now! I finished this book in one day and am dying to get my hands on the sequel. THAT ENDING. Even if you’re a contemporary skeptic like me, I definitely recommend picking up this book!
“My letters are for when I don’t want to be in love anymore. They’re for good-bye. Because after I write in my letter, I’m no longer consumed by my all-consuming love…My letters set me free. Or at least they’re supposed to.”