Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars
Yes…I am a part of the bandwagon with this franchise after it had gained some major popularity becoming a Netflix original movie. I both watched and enjoyed the dynamics of the film, and the cast of characters were fun to watch, so knowing that the book was probably better–like it usually is–I decided to give it a shot.
While it’s not action packed and adventurous like The Hunger Games, or plenty of other popular YA/Teen series, it’s still enjoyable with a more realistic, simple coming-of-age approach that talks about everyday themes like family, first love, the joys and sorrows of high school, and maybe writing fake letters to anyone you’ve had feelings for, only for them to somehow get all sent out, thus making it seem like your life is over…totally normal, right?
If anyone reading this is friends with me and sees what I read based off my other reviews and my “Read” shelf on Goodreads: it’s pretty obvious I like contemporary romance if not Fantasy. Not that I need to justify or defend what I like to read because no one should, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart and I want it for myself one day so I enjoy reading about it, and Lara Jean and Peter have an engaging dynamic for me. Lara is the quiet, preppy girl who keeps her head down in the halls and bakes on weekends instead of partying, and while Peter is the typical popular jock who runs the school, I do enjoy reading his interactions with Lara Jean and how he still tries to be the cool, cocky jock, but stops his act whenever he’s alone with her and shows a side of him that no one else has ever seen before. I get warm inside about that shit. They have a relationship where I sincerely hope it works out in the end.
What It’s About:
Lara Jean has never openly admitted any of her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, then sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed to never see the light of day ever again…
All that goes down the toilet when one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed out, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh.
As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all…
What I Liked:
- The “Fake Relationship” Trope! So a big part of the story was how one of the boys LJ had a serious crush on was actually her older sister’s boyfriend, Josh. He’s literally the boy next door to her, but LJ decides to pretend to already be in a relationship instead of dealing with that confrontation. She makes a deal with the popular Peter Kavinsky to “fake-date” as it turns out he’s trying to get over his ex too, Jen, and Peter was a recipient of one of LJ’s letters anyways. It’s a cute setup, and the fake-relationships-to-make-someone-else-jealous-but-ends-up-falling-for-pretend-bae is a familiar trope that I never get tired of! It just leads to some really hilarious moments throughout the story, some awkward instances of almost getting caught, and the thrill of will others find out about it?
- The Theme of the Importance of Family! One very important theme in the book is family. Laura Jean is incredibly family-centric and it’s probably the most important thing in her life. She loves her older sister, Margo, and is devastated when she leaves to go to college overseas. She adores her younger sister, Kitty, even though her childish antics and moodiness gets on her nerves, and is always looking out for her father and making sure everything within their house runs smoothly. Their dynamic is one of healing because their mom passed away and it’s obvious it was a big shock to everyone, and all have been affected in different ways.
- It’s Light, Easy, Fun Reading! TATBILB is just a light, fluffy, and a totally different change of pace from the angsty, heavier material I also read with the Fantasy genre and lately, Paranormal Romance. This book is what some call a total “beach read” as in it’s easy to follow along and constantly toss that bookmark inside, and come back to later without having to worry about trying to remember a thousand tiny details.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Leaves On A Cliffhanger…The ending just ends so abruptly, and was so unsatisfying compared to the pacing of the whole rest of the book. To a degree, I get it: you need to keep the series going and have people want to keep reading on for sales and all that, but I still felt like it could’ve ended differently and not feel so out of the blue and sudden.
- Laura Jean Doesn’t Develop…LJ is a total Mary Sue character in my opinion. she is seemingly perfect by being the perfect daughter who helps around the house, bakes on the weekends instead of going out to parties and getting drunk. Part of me gets it though…she is pretty innocent and has little life experience other than being the middle born child with an older sister who has a textbook type-A personality. Either way, it just seems like her interests and what drives her in the story seems really boy-obsessed and shallow, and by the end of the book, it doesn’t feel like she really learns all that much.
I can see why the All The Boys I’ve Loved Before franchise has become so popular with the younger audiences in YA fiction: it’s fun, it’s light, it’s romantic and is pretty relatable with the characters and the inner turmoil and constant worry that goes through the lead character’s mind. I feel like there were plenty of instances within this book that a lot of teenage girls can relate to, and find comfort in this popular contemporary fiction trilogy.
I recommend this title to anyone who enjoys the “Fake Relationship” romance trope that continues to sweep across the contemporary romance genre, and compared to what I’ve read in the past, I feel like anyone who likes Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, or a novel I’ve reviewed on here: Again, but Better by Christine Riccio would enjoy this title.
It’s not anything deep or substantial in terms of literature, but it’s still just a light, fun read to enjoy if you’re looking for a change of pace and wanted to read deeper into the popular Netflix original movie.
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell