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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Title: To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub. Date: April 15, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 14+

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  In this new contemporary YA novel from Jenny Han - author of the wonderful novel The Summer I Turned Pretty - young, messy, exuberant, painful love and the complicated, unbreakable bond of sisterhood is explored.

When Lara Jean Song's love letters to five boys she once loved - private letters that were never intended to be seen by said boys - are all mailed, she must navigate her way through the fallout. Most worrisome is the letter sent to her older sister's recent ex, a boy she stopped loving the day he started dating her sister... or did she? As Lara Jean revisits and sorts her feelings, she begins a faux-relationship with a classmate which quickly spirals out of control.

Another driving force within the novel is Lara Jean's relationship with her sisters. Lara Jean is the middle sister, but when her older sister moves overseas for college, she becomes the eldest in the house, a position that changes Lara Jean's relationship with both siblings. I found this aspect of the novel very compelling and realistic. As the eldest of four siblings (two sisters, one brother) I identified with Lara Jean, but I could also identify closely with her older sister's motivations and feelings.

I was pleasantly surprised by the glimpses at Lara Jean's Korean heritage as well. These elements were mostly introduced through food and food memories, which I think is a really smart, accessible way to showcase cultural individuality in fiction.There's a misconception that characters of color or characters that are at all outside of the stereotypical white American teenager character-type are too difficult for the general YA reading public to relate to. TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE wholly demolishes that misconception - hurrah!


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