June 10, 2015

Love Letters for Lara Jean

To All the Boys I've Loved Before book cover
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Source/Format: Bought || Hardcover

Lara Jean 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 can pour out her heart and soul and say 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.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before was, hands down, one of my favorite contemporary reads in 2014. I fell in love with Lara Jean Song, her sisters, her father and maybe even the boys she loved. I felt such a strong personal connection to this story, and I was really excited to revisit it before reading the sequel P.S. I Still Love You. My original review has more in-depth thoughts, but I wanted to do a quick reread review for this one!

WHEN I First Read

I read To All the Boys I've Loved Before the day it released last year. I really enjoyed Han's Summer series, and had pre-ordered her new contemporary release because (a) it's Jenny Han and (b) it's got an Asian girl on the cover and (c) it's a story with sisters and romance. Happily, I was not disappointed; I was immediately swept up in Lara Jean's story.

WHAT I Remember

I remembered the basic premise of Lara Jean's love letters getting sent out to all five boys, and how each one turns out. I remembered Lara Jean's relationship with her sisters Margot and Kitty, and how darling their dad was. And I also remember Peter Kavinsky, because let's face it, who doesn't remember Peter?

WHY I Wanted to Re-read

I usually enjoy rereading books when their sequels are out, just because it immerses me so completely in that world and among those characters and prepares me for what might happen next. But actually, I really just wanted to reread this one because I had so loved it the first (and only) time I'd read it in 2014, and wanted to see if it was a love that would survive the passage of time. (It really was.)

HOW I Felt After Re-reading

Giddy. I definitely felt giddy with joy. I also had a case of the swoons! But really, there was just this happy contentment when I finished. It's such a great, engaging story, and I really do love Lara Jean and the people in her life (even when they make mistakes or act in misguided ways). I was also really excited knowing that I could jump straight into the sequel.

WOULD I Re-read Again

Oh, absolutely! Lara Jean Song Covey is the kind of gal you don't forget, really, and I will be forever charmed by her and want to be her friend. (I mean, we seriously enjoy the same things so that's already a good foundation for friendship, right?) I'd definitely revisit her story at a later date, especially if I was in the mood for something that would make me happy when I read it.

P.S. I Still Love You book cover
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Source/Format: Bought || Hardcover

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

I'm not going to lie to you, guys. Based on the summary alone for P.S. I Still Love You, you'll know that things get extra complicated for Lara Jean in the romance department. While it's a situation that might not sit well with all readers, I personally felt like Han tackled something that was true to Lara Jean as a teenager who is just simply trying to find her way - in love and in life.

Lara Jean is still the charming young gal we all fell in love with, though she's less insular and more willing to step out of her comfort zone. She's fallen in love with Peter, and is slowly learning what that means and how it changes their relationship entirely (though I'll talk about this in depth a little later). I still adored Lara Jean, particularly as she handles herself so well. She's definitely changed a lot from who she was before, and in good ways. With my investment in her character, it's no surprise that I was completely swept up in her emotions this time around - happy when she was happy, heartbroken when she was heartbroken, angry when she was angry. Her story is close to my heart because of my close emotional connection to her, and I loved that.

While Han does showcase changing family and friendship dynamics, the romance is the primary focus of P.S. I Still Love You. There are really three things that I personally feel need to be discussed: Lara Jean's feelings for Peter, Lara Jean's feelings for John and Peter's feelings for Lara Jean. 

Lara Jean, at the end of To All the Boys I've Loved Before, has come to the realization that she's in love with Peter. The early chapters of P.S. I Still Love You are all about these two - their reconciliation and relationship. I love that Han gives them happy, wonderful moments together on the page. But I also love that she throws in conflict: a brewing scandal surrounding them, Peter's connection to Genevieve, Lara Jean rekindling an old friendship with a boy she loved. Honestly, all three of the major conflicts between Lara Jean and Peter feel authentic. It felt like a testament to how life can put obstacles in the way of your happily ever after, and how it is the choice of both people to either rise above them together or allow them to tear you apart.

Even though she's in love with Peter, Lara Jean also reconnects with John, one of the boys she wrote a letter to. Their friendship is so darn adorable, whether they reminisce over the past or learn how much they have in common in the present. There's no denying the fact that, in many ways, John is the perfect match for Lara Jean. I loved watching them reconnect after so many years, and it was sweet to see another boy treating Lara Jean the way she deserves to be treated.

And there's Peter's feelings for Lara Jean. Here, my friends, is where things get really complicated. Peter loves Lara Jean. It's the truth. It's totally obvious in the way that he treats her when they're together, and the things he does for her and for her family. He does love her but he's also a teen boy who has only ever been in one relationship prior to the one with Lara Jean. This is not an excuse condoning anything that happens here; it's a plea to understand the context behind his actions. Am I happy with his choices? Not all the time. Do I understand what's going on in his head? I don't profess to, but I'm trying to consider him for what he is. Obviously, based on what I've said, there's some questionable things that happen; I'm merely saying how I feel about it.

Is P.S. I Still Love You perfect? Nope. I think we could have used a few more chapters, in which Peter gets called out and which Gen gets what she deserves. I also feel like there were a few moments that came across as preachy, stilted and deliberate in the middle of what otherwise felt like a natural flow to the story.

But P.S. I Still Love You had a story that I strongly connected to, cried about and swooned over. But more than that, it allowed readers to watch Lara Jean grow up (again) and subtly shows how she goes from being a romantic dreamer of a girl with her head in the clouds, to someone who is independent of her illusions and capable of making the choices that she feels are best for her. I fell in love with Lara Jean even more with P.S. I Still Love You, and will happily declare that I'm Team Lara Jean!


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