“I don’t have to be so afraid of good-bye, because good-bye doesn’t have to be forever.”
The buzz behind this novel and other works by Jenny Han is quite loud. And with good reason — not only is the cover art incredibly beautiful, the story is as well. Charming in its own right and quite the standout from all the contemporary young adult novels I’ve read so far this year. It’s so simple and lovely and just the perfect read.
You fall in love with the characters — Lara Jean is exactly everything I love in a narrator and has a voice that keeps you intrigued in her day-to-day life. She’s, as Peter puts it, quirky and cute and manages to put a smile on your face throughout the novel. Han makes her come to life right before your eyes.
What I liked most about this novel is that it’s sweet and realistic all at once. We get to know one of the most important things of our lead first: she collects letters she’s written to the boys she’s ‘loved’ and tucks them away in a hat box her mother gave her at some point before she’d died.
We see already changes that are coming about for her family: her older sister Margot, who we learn is a mother-like figure for Lara Jean and her little sister Kitty, is leaving for college. Not just leaving for college, but heading to an entirely different country to do so. And before heading off, she breaks off her relationship with the boy next door, Josh. Lara Jean has a secret when it comes to Josh: she had feelings for him first; long before Josh and Margot dated.
He is a major part in their lives. And a major character in our story.
Not long after Margot leaves, Lara Jean’s box of letters goes missing and like it or not the contents are out there for each of the boys she’s written letters to. This, unfortunately, includes Josh and puts them both an extremely awkward situation that leads to many forms of development in Lara Jean’s character.
He isn’t the only one who receives a letter — one of the other boys, Peter, gets one as well. This is when things get amusing and tricky — Lara Jean and Peter have some sort of comical chemistry that makes their scenes interesting and sweet even at the very beginning. He is the typical attractive boy from school and has his moments of cockiness but, the two are genuinely good for each other.
Whether I mean this in a friendship sort of way or a romantic way, you can only find out by reading the story. And you really freakin’ should because it’s just so lovely.
Back to my review. After both Josh and Peter confront her on these letters, Lara Jean has to save face and claims (to Josh) that she is dating Peter. This fake relationship comes in handy on numerous occasions: like I said, the two are good for each other. And in embarking on this “relationship” they are both able to get something they want out of it.
For Peter, he wants to make his ex-girlfriend Gen jealous.
For Lara Jean, she just wants to make it clear to Peter she no longer has romantic feelings for him —- which may or may not be true. And to top it all off, no matter how hard they try to make their friendship normal again, the knowledge Peter now holds is a bit too much and tests their friendship.
And the lines between Peter and Lara Jean’s fake relationship are becoming blurry. Are they really pretending? Or is there something there that has unexpectedly bloomed?
Now I don’t want to give the story away any further. But I will say this, all cliches aside, this is a fun story to read. It keeps you interested and while it does do different things that are predictable. it is still one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had all year. Jenny Han has a way with her words and could probably make you fall in love with a phone book for all I know.
- Strong sibling and family bonds. Kitty, Lara Jean and Margot are exactly the kind of sisters you want. I hope to see more of their dynamic in the sequel to this novel.
- Realistic ties to getting over your first love as well as falling in love in unexpected ways.
- Kitty is so damn sassy and cute; her interactions with Peter are adorable.
- Lara Jean and Peter’s banter.
- Josh and his adorable confusion. I do hope he sticks around in their lives and that maybe, just maybe, he and Margot will get back together.
- Interesting side characters in Lara Jean’s hot mess of a friends and some of Peter’s friends.
- Lara Jean’s love of vintage items. Jenny does a great job describing Lara’s taste and style and personally, I love it.
- The ski trip.
- The ski trip.
- It, you know, ended. I wanted the story to go on and I’m already bouncing around waiting for the sequel.
- Not enough Margot.
There’s just something about this book and I think you’ll understand what I mean if you pick up a copy. If you’ve never read anything by Jenny Han, I hope this is your first experience in doing so — you’ll fall in love with her writing and characters.