Lara Jean Song-Covey (16) is a plucky but innocent high schooler and hopeless romantic. She has been nursing a crush on Josh (her perfect big sister Margo’s ex-boyfriend) for a few years. She can't "say" anything to Josh or her sister, so she writes down her thoughts. Just like she always does. Whenever Lara is madly in love and trying not to be, she pens a good-bye letter to her misbegotten lover. There are five letters, all unmailed. Lara holds onto the notes as a reminder of the crushing weight of falling in love with the wrong person.
Until they get mailed. Then chaos breaks out. Now Lara finds herself struggling to pick up the pieces of the catastrophe, and at the same time contemplating her relationship with Josh, her sister, and a few other boys she may or may not still love.
BTSYA / Teen Reader (Age 17):
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before isn’t quite sure what to do with itself. It is romance, humor, coming of age, and family saga genres mashed into one book. It actually reminded me of Comedy of Manners by Jane Austen because Han intermingles social and class themes with wit and swoon-worthy romance.
Then, it ultimately decides it wants to be a love story. And that may just be its downfall. We're supposed to believe that Lara would throw her apparently undying love for Josh under the bus swiftly after meeting the dashing but egomaniacal Kavinsky. Han never fully fleshes out that relationship or makes us sympathize their dilemma.
Thankfully, the love story is not the true heart of the story. The moments that most emotionally resonant with the reader are those between the Song sisters Lara, Margo, and Kitty. Han excellently captures the emotional rollercoaster that often comes with living in a household full of young women who love each other, but nonetheless feud constantly. Lara's love life only bogs down the story.
Even with its messiness in parts, To All the Boys should be praised for giving us diverse characters. Lara and her sisters are half-Korean, raised by a white father after their mother passed away years prior. It is notable that the few sparing mentions of Lara’s struggles with her racial identity are some of the most compelling in the story.
In the end, while fulfilling in some parts and dreadfully underwritten in others, Lara’s optimistic tale of teenage love and life is the kind of sugary sweet and superficial summer read you cannot help but enjoy.
A summer read you can't help but enjoy.
There are some mild sexual references and strong language.
This is the first title in this young adult series with a humorous, light look at life and love for high school teens. It is for a mature audience but has an elementary reading level. [High interest / low readability option]
To All the Boys I've Ever Loved is a light, fun read. It could be fun - and reassuring to them - to talk with your child about some of your high school crushes or embarrassments from when you were a teen. One of Lara's core character traits is her search for her identity. Asking readers how they would feel or how they would be a friend to Lara could be engaging and enlightening.
15 and Up
13 and Up
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer Age: 17
Borrow. Our teen says "It is a quick and entertaining read, but not something to hold onto. Like an ice cream cone left out in the sun too long, the substance of the storybook melts away quickly. "