Book Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

I love this cover

I love this cover

Always and Forever, Lara Jean
by Jenny Han
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #3
Published: May 2nd 2017
Rating: The ending I wanted

This is the sequel that I was waiting for. Just so much cute.  Lara Jean and Peter continue their relationship as they try to negotiate their launch into adulthood.

All of the conflicts in this book comes from the simple fact that Lara Jean and Peter are 18 and having to make their first huge life choices.  What are they going to do after graduation? Will they stay together? Go to college together? Plan their lives around one another? How much of your life can you plan out when you are only eighteen? What does it mean to be an adult and to grow up? Anyone who has graduated or is about to graduate know how this feels. I love the idea explored that sometimes disappointment can lead to unexpectedly open doors. 

Lara Jean is still one of my favorite YA contemporary YA characters ever.  Her introversion is so relatable. Yay, for staying home on a Saturday and baking cookies. I love that she stays so true to herself throughout the book even when she isn't sure what she truly wants. 

Why is Peter's mom such a b- about Lara Jean? I am going to say it: Lara Jean could probably do better than Peter.  I mean aside from being beautiful he isn't all that extraordinary.  Don't get me wrong; I love him.   I just think that we should acknowledge that Lara Jean is dating down. Having said I ship them forever and I won't be mad if Jenny Han writes a book set fifteen or years later where they are getting married.  Lara Jean deserves her ethereal wedding aesthetic. 

I guess that’s part of growing up, too—saying goodbye to the things you used to love.

The side characters in this book make me so happy. Kitty is the best little sister in the world.  She is just the perfect combination of obnoxious, independent, and sweet. I maintain that she deserves a spin off series of her own. I also love Margot's character arc in this book.  I started off being irritated by her choices, but I eventually came around.

Lara Jean talks about having nostalgia for a life that you still have. Which is such a relatable thing.  It reminds me of how I have felt right before moving from a country.  I am not gone yet, but I feel all wistful and generous because my time there is almost over and I won't be able to have that experience again. Lara Jean feels the same way about her high school life.  I can also relate to using micromanaging as a coping mechanism. I too, latch onto organization whenever things in my life feel out of control.  Lara Jean starts to fixate on details to distract herself from the fact that her life is not completely going according to plan.

Love Always, Lara Jean made me so happy.  I enjoyed every moment that I got to spend with Lara Jean and her family again and I am incredibly satisfied with how everything turned out.  If you enjoy contemporary romantic YA, I urge you to check this series out.

From Goodreads:

Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You  by Jenny Han  cover

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You
by Jenny Han
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #2
Published: May 26th 2015
Rating: DRAMATIC but still adorable

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han is the sequel to To All the Boys I've Loved Before.  The book begins almost immediately where the first book left off.  Lara Jean and Peter are officially together, but old flames crop up to complicate their relationship. If you haven't read the first book 1) get on that 2) don't bother with this one yet.  It doesn't work as a stand alone.  

 I love that there is an entire subplot involving a nursing home which Lara Jean helps out at just for fun (later as a job).  That this is both completely in character for Lara Jean and realistically portrayed behavior of a seventeen-year-old is a testament to Han's writings. Lara Jean should be a Mary Sue of the highest order.  Pretty, good grades, close to her family, quirky, and dressed by woodland creatures in the morning. She is not.  She is also pretty innocent and naive.  That leads her to make a BIG DEAL about certain parts of being in a relationship and being completely clueless about others.  I found it realistic.  Isn't that what being in love at sixteen is like? I can, however, see how it might grate on some readers.  Your mileage may vary.  Lara Jean works for me as a character, for sure.  

Once again, I loved the interaction between Lara Jean and her sisters. I  also wouldn't mind a Kitty spin-off.  A middle-level book set at the same time as P.S. I Still Love You, but we get to know what is going on in Kitty's life and head instead of Lara Jean's.  

I know now that I don’t want to love or be loved in half measures. I want it all, and to have it all, you have to risk it all.

Lara Jean character development isn't that dramatic in this book.  She gains some confidence and begins to recognize that she doesn't need approval from others.  But for the most part, ends the book as the same person that she started the book as. 

The biggest weakness of this book was the overreliance on drama to drive the plot. I guess it was needed to shake things up?  It just seemed that the drama was a bit artificial.  All of it came from situations and people outside of Lara Jean and Peter.  Honestly, Peter could have avoided an entire book worth of drama if he has just trusted Lara Jean and talked to her like she asked him to. Also, he spends a significant portion of the book defending and being shady with someone who has intentionally and irreparably harmed Lara Jean.  Gen is a horrible person. That's not how you boyfriend, Peter. It is a good thing you are cute.  Now shut up and do what your girlfriend asks you to do. All this drama gave the book more of a plot happening to characters feelings rather than characters happening to the plot, which is my preference. I still really enjoyed this book, but it was 100% because of the characters and the adorable/relatable moments and details.

P.S. I Still Love You didn't stand up to the first book in the series.  It does have excellent writing, much to relate to, and one of my favorite YA characters in the last five years.  I am looking forward to the third book, Love Always Lara Jean.

From Goodreads:

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Timesbestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

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

I love this cover

I love this cover

To All the Boys I've Loved Before
by Jenny Han
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1
Published: April 15th 2014)
Rating: Heart Eyed Emojis right here

I am going to be a bit gushy here.  I won't be able to help myself. I just.. cannot even... my heart.  Love, love, love.  To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han is the book equivalent of a macaroon.  Pastel colored, sweet, beautiful, and oh, so addicting. If you are looking for heavy angst ridden YA just move along because you are not going to find it here.  Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song Covey (Why is her name wrong in the blurb?  It bugs me.) has written love letters to every boy she has ever had a crush on and saved them in a hatbox.  Now, somehow, they have all been sent.

Sisters and the relationships between them play a huge part in this book.  It was heartwarming.  They genuinely loved one another and liked one another (entirely different things), valued one another's differences.  I love how they were all such unique individuals but also able to act as a single "Song Girls" unit. Does their dynamic remind anyone else of modern Little Women? Margot is obviously a Meg and Kitty is clearly an Amy. In my head, Lara Jean was a cross between Jo and Beth.  She has Jo's impulsiveness and personality and Beth's love of home and thoughtfulness.  

I love Lara Jean.  I hard core relate to Lara Jean.  I am in acute physical pain that Lara Jean is not a real person that I can make friends with. I have never read such relatable introversion in my life.  "Hmm, on the one hand, I could go out with my wild friend; but on the other, I just ordered a new sheet mask and could bake cookies." Or cheesecake in my case, as that is what is in the oven at this moment.  She is so grounded. I love her lack of rebellion.  She knows who she is.  She doesn't reject her peers and makes friends, but she goes after the things that interest her even if no one else appreciates them. 

Peter Kavinsky is a surprisingly excellent love interest.  At first, I was sure that I would hate him.  There is a Dudebro arrogance to him that I usually find offputting.  I think that it is because Lara Jean sees through it and is forever pricking at his ego that that it was adorable rather than douchey. 

It’s not like in the movies. It’s better, because it’s real.

Diversity in YA is incredibly important.  There are so many people who are still looking for characters that truly reflect them. There is still a huge need for more.  While I loved books like The Hate U Give and Allegedly, I also think that there is a huge need for more diversity like this.  The story of an ordinary girl doing ordinary things who just happens to be half Korean.  Race, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, gender don't have to be a problem or something to overcome.  Diverse readers deserve to see characters like themselves going about their lives.  More of all of this please publishing.  I for one am buying it.

If you have any interest in YA romance, this is a must read.  

From Goodreads:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once? 

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.