The Inkwell is a series of book reviews, or just rambling thoughts on specific books. For more, amble here.
Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, 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.
“Do you think there’s a difference? Between belonging with and belonging to?”
Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is charming and full of character in the same way that a vintage dress is. This book is a drop of sunshine. This book is a chunky knit oversize sweater. This book is a grilled cheese sandwich. It made me feel so warm and comfy—but also gave me butterflies.
It’s lighthearted and adorable, but also unexpected. I thought the focus would be more on the mystery of the love letters, but it wasn’t that pivotal to the story. At the core of the novel is not Lara Jean’s love life, but her family life. And it’s a great strength of the book. The relationship between Lara Jean and her sisters—older, serious Margot and younger, feisty Kitty—is central to the story.
Too many contemporary YA books rely on the trope of families-who-just-don’t-get-it, and many more simply have “throwaway” families (when parents/siblings are just plot devices or ghostly background figures). The family dynamics are incredibly fun, but also encompass the real bittersweetness that happens when children grow up, siblings move away, and change happens.
The narrative voice is so bright and delightful. I adored Lara Jean even though I’m definitely a Margot. This book is chock-full of witty banter and too-real sibling snipping.
I read this book in between some serious tomes (Suki Kim’s Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite & Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me), so it was like a lemontart treat between heavy fare.
I was reminded of the beauty of books. Yes, books are meant to make us think deeper and wider. But sometimes, they’re also meant to make us feel happy when we need it. This book came into my life right when I needed it the most. For a little bit, it melted away my stress and anxiety and trauma. If you need a sweet burst, read To All The Boys I’ve loved Before!
Also, the aesthetic of the cover is to die for! It perfectly captures the whimsy and cuteness of the book. And I’m seriously so happy they didn’t whitewash the cover model.