I started out reading this book with a knowing snicker that the author has wiped clear off my face. I admit it- I jumped to a conclusion and mentally mocked a book that’s probably going to be a novel that actually sticks with me forever.
What a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL story. Ahhh Jenny Han you have stolen my heart!
When I began this, two words came to mind: ‘Little Women’ and I will say that even now that I’ve finished, I do still suspect that the author may be a Louisa May Alcott fan because so much of the premise of ‘To all The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ is reminiscent of Little Women.
There are only three sisters in this one and they are Korean and modern, but they have a very similar bond those in the afore mentioned story and a few of the plot elements are the same: the boy next door they all fall in love with in their own way who ends up with the eldest sister, the brave, quirky middle child who is more Anne Shirley than Jan Brady, and the hot-headed, mischievous little sister manipulating the eldest ones and every situation behind the scenes. This kid is an absolute handful and if she were my sister well, I would have gone on a cupcake-baking strike for what she does in the beginning of this story. It’s not as bad as burning something precious in a fire, but it is akin to it by modern standards.
The sisters have a lovely bond but off the bat, I’m not the biggest fan of Margo. She’s just a bit bleh in the way that little Kitty is a bit overbearing. Margo is the oldest who has been the mother figure in the home since their biological mother died, and she’s leaving now to go to college in Scotland and leaving the middle sister in charge. Not only that, but she’s leaving the boyfriend behind too.
Look I don’t know if it’s possible to actually dole out spoilers with a book like this that everyone won’t see coming already, but Lara has always been in love with her big sister’s boyfriend and once the sister leaves well, you can imagine what notions occur to her.
It’s pretty predictable but I will say that that’s where the predictability ends.
Basically, Lara has written five love-letters in her life to silently farewell a boy once she’s over her crush on them, but instead of sending them to the boy, she’d held onto them. It’s cute and it’s something I have done so right off the bat, I feel like this character is a bit of a soul-mate of mine. But, shock and horror, those letters end up finding their way into the boys hands and though this probably could have been played out with a bit more mortification involved (come on! they wouldn’t all take it so well!) it sets up an exciting beginning to a story that DOES NOT FAIL TO DELIVER.
I love how this novel develops. The things that you think are unexpected are the things that you end up hoping for without realising that you’re hoping for them, and the things that happen that you see coming hit you square in the gut even though you see them coming. I once had a very nice reviewer use the word ‘Tummy Butterflies’ to describe one of my own novels and I have to say that I felt like I’d feasted on butterflies once I got into this. I just love love LOVE this heroine, and I love the male characters and Peter ohmigosh he’s my new underage sexy book boyfriend. he reminds me like a modern day take on Gilbert Blythe when he was young and clumsy with his ego.
This story is just beautiful and moving but never too shocking or too predictable. Some of the ‘touching’ moments between the sisters made me want to dry-retch a little but I have an incredibly sweet sister of my own so I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to be so tightly bonded. Unfortunately for me, there are seven years between my older sister and I, and sixteen between my eldest and me so we barely got to live together, let alone go through puberty together and I applaud the author for opting for sweet, rather than bitchy for the dynamic between all three of them.
This story isn’t over and I love that. I love how it ended, not a cliffhanger but with the promise of more, and I love reading a novel from a Korean girl’s point of view because it’s an absolute first for me. I loved the writing, the pacing, the surprises, the way it made me feel for her, the way it made me feel for everyone involved really, and I’ll be getting book 2 the second I can.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved before isn’t modern or risky, but it doesn’t infantalize teenagers either and I admire how a story can be so sweet and yet so current. Sex is mentioned a lot but never taken too far, there are a few cuss words involved that were used in the perfect way, and it forces you to care for people without shoving it down your throat.
Read if you love the old Judy Blume and Caroline B Cooney novels of the 70’s to 90’s, read if you’re a teen, read if you’re an adult- just read and have your heart stolen 🙂