Just Finished: To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date:  April 2014

To All the Boys I Loved Before

Synopsis:  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.

Review:   Who could resist a summary like that?!  You?  You could?  Oh… Well I couldn’t.  To me, it sounded like a train wreck waiting happen… and we all know that people love train wrecks and car crashes.  People flock to them, whether to gawk or help – we flock to accidents like hyenas to a carcass.

Well, it wasn’t what I quite expected… so my impressions and the book’s blurb and it’s execution did not match.  But that said, I did read the book in one sitting and I did immensely enjoy the book.  Maybe because I’m biased.  Or something.  This book is pure unadulterated fluff.  This is your only warning.  If you don’t like fluff, you won’t like this book.  Which typically means I would hate this book.  But I didn’t.  I loved it.  I am not ashamed to say it.  And I’m a guy – FYI.

So the question is why did I like this book?  It’s much different from most other fluff books, but the main reason why is the build up between Laura Jean and the boy (I won’t say who).  It was “Oh, he’s good looking at first sight,”  but excludes the “I want him now.”  Or the “I need him now.”  Or the “I can’t live without him now.”  Or the “I must make him mine now.”  Yeah, pretty much these are the reasons why I enjoyed this book.  I don’t care if the relationship was a little on the weak side (which it was) but the fact that the characters did not lust after one another in the “I can’t live without you” way makes the novel way better than so many YA books out there I have read that features all those that I just mentioned.  Laura Jean and the boy relationship’s grows together… albeit under uncertain and maybe even weird circumstances for some of you.  But I enjoyed it.  Why?  Because I enjoy some K-Drama (Korean drama) and they (Laura Jean and the boy) bust out a contract like they were in a K-Drama like their lives depended on it.

Another reason why I liked this book is the small details.  The notes specifically.  Here, I felt we learn a lot from the characters via the little notes they left for each other.  How the boy was concern about being impressive to not only Laura Jean but her little sister too.  How small compliments count.  “You look pretty in blue.”  There’s this dreamy quality of a statement like this that seems to hold much more meaning on a little piece of paper than verbally (I’m a romantic under the coal black heart of mine).   I do however wished these were interspersed throughout the book rather than mostly at the end.  So this sentiment is more retrospective rather than during the read.

The boy… is typical boy.  Well all the boys are typical boys and by that I mean they can be any high school kid you see everyday.  They are relatively normal.  They are the everyday.  Some people would call them flat characters.  But I think many people don’t know what they are spouting… and they throw around that descriptor when they find a character they dislike.  Some of the recipients of the letters were flat but they weren’t a huge part of the story – if at all, so it makes sense that they’re flat.

Laura Jean and the boys that counted were complex.  By complex, I mean they had issues to work around and they tried to work around them or attempted to resolve or attempted to ignore the issues they had – you know like real people.  Though the issues aren’t too complex…. ex-“lovers”, rejected love, coping with a missing family member, whether the person being dead or moving away.  Which brings me to my next soap box… which you can skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read my soapbox…

I write my reviews and then I peruse the other reviews just to see what others have thought… and then I address some issues I think are worth mentioning.  Which I will do here.  Some reviewers felt this was trying too hard to be Korean… that it beat you over the head.  I disagree (and I want to say some awesome expletives filled rebuttals too but I’ll hold off on that).  Trying hard to be Korean? … On the fact that they eat Korean food or do Korean things? …  HOLD UP.  HOLD UP.  Guuuuurl/Boooooooy, I’m about to get all Junot Diaz up in here.  Someone hold my book.  Too Korean?  Yes, because eating Korean food makes one be a poser… “Well Han didn’t have to mention it several times that they are Korean” (paraphrased)… being Korean is part of Laura Jean’s identity.  You know this within the first few chapters as Laura Jean and her sister’s are the “Song girls” and Song (a more common Korean last name) isn’t their  “real last names.”  (You can read the reason in the book).   I’m sorry that you fail at recognizing diversity.  Well no I’m not.  I’m actually pissed.  Matter of fact, Laura Jean mentions her “Korean-ness” a few times, but nothing to complain about.  It was not done to remind readers in case they forgotten… and so what if it was… because frankly, there is a high amounts of proof out there that if readers are not reminded they will auto default the characters, who they are reading about, as white when they aren’t, which with the name Laura Jean – it wouldn’t be hard for some readers to do.  But this is a book about an American girl so having an angelo-ish name isn’t surprising.  Gah, I can go another whole soap box about names… So be thankful for your privileged life and move the hell on… seriously.  Han was forcing the Asian culture??  So the family tries to do Korean things to maintain their Korean culture/identity as they are half white and half Korean… obviously, reviewer you are seeing this through your white (yes, I am going there), monochromatic lenses of which you see life… there are tons of biracial people out there struggling to identify themselves.  I know of bi-racial families doing the exact things in Han’s book, not as a means to try to be Asian but it’s something they do as an expression of identity.  Trying too hard to be Asian… dear [censored] take your racist [censored] out of here…  oh you aren’t racist?  Well, act like it.

So with all that said.  Fluff.  Pure Fluff.  Fun Fluff.  If you like cheeky fluff, this is for you… unless you are a racist or have racist tendencies.

Read-a-likes:

(Picture hyper-linked to the book’s Goodreads’ page)

Eleanor and ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Why the Recommendation:  Park, the half Korean boy in this book, struggles with his identity along the same veins as Laura Jean though the portrayals are different.  Both revolve around unexpected love also.

 

Just One DayJust One Day by Gayle Forman

Why the Recommendation:  Risk taking.  Both stories challenges the young women in them to do things beyond their normal selves.  Both features romance that was different than what the young women considered as perfect and ideal… and yet that “new” and “different” romance was indeed perfect and ideal.

Language InsideThe Language Inside by Holly Thompson

Why the Recommendation:  Missing mothers and longing for love and an existence beyond familial ties are two similar themes in both books.  Then there’s the unexpected love.

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