Book review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

If you have a Netflix account, and by now I think most of us do, I think you already saw the movie ad, but you will (or will not) be surprised to hear that it’s based on a book written by Jenny Han, first in a series of three. Since I actually liked the first book I decided that it will have an entire post written for it, so let’s get started.

Lara Jean is a sixteen-year-old girl, with Korean origins that lives in Virginia. She has a unique way of coping with love, every time she falls for a boy she writes him a letter expressing all of her feelings, surely she never sends them and keeps them in a box in her closet. There are 5 letters in total, one is for her now sister’s boyfriend Josh, one for an old friend who happens to be the pretty boy from the school Peter, and 3 others that are addressed to a now gay guy, and 2 middle school colleagues.

Before leaving for college in Scotland, her sister Margot dumps Josh, since she says that doesn’t want to be the girl crying for her long-distance relationship, and soon Lara Jean is once again facing her feelings for her sister’s ex-boyfriend as he is still present around her and her younger sister Kitty even after’s Margot’s departure.

One day at school Peter Kavinsky approaches Lara Jean and tells her he is honored by her letter but doesn’t feel the same way. At first, she is confused by the remark, but soon after realizes that he is holding the letter that she wrote to him a while back. Furthermore, she finds out that all 5 letters were sent, including the one addressed to Josh. From the desired to cover up the story that she is still in love with him, Lara Jane decides to kiss Peter and also start a fake relationship with him, since he also wants to make his ex-girlfriend jealous.

You can imagine that this will lead to all sorts of trouble and complications, one of them being the fact that Josh confessed that he first liked Lara and not Margot and even ends with them sharing a kiss. Also, the saying fake it, ’till you make it will turn out to be true for Lara and Peter.

There are indeed a couple of areas where things could have been better, like the fact that there is no real girl friendship pictured, just shallow relations between them and a lot of jealousy ( I am excluding the sisterhood bound), also the fact that Lara Jane is somehow going after her sister’s boyfriend (that is a bit odd, but let’s face it not really so out of the ordinary).

I will try not to spoil the ending of the book since I encourage you to read, it’s the perfect beach lecture that you can have. It’s not a great book, it will not stick with you, there is no lesson learned or any takeaway, a simple young adult book that can make you be glued to it for a few hours. Maybe my review is more positive than it should be since I read it after the awful After series (review can be found here) but somehow it was a guilty pleasure. Now I am planning to pour a glass of wine, open Netflix and play the movie. Curious about how you found the book? Did you read it/liked it/planning on reading it?

 

Book Review: The After Series, by Anna Todd

Sex, obsession, teenage drama, and a toxic relationship. I think I summarised the four books in a sentence, but let’s dig deeper, after all, I’ve spent the time to read them all, so bear with me through this review that will contain spoilers.

The storyline goes like this: Tessa is moving from her perfectly staged life to college, she is leaving behind her protective and obsessed for perfection mum and her boyfriend who is still in high school. Boyfriend with whom she only has a sort of platonic relationship. Her roommate is the opposite of Tessa, a party girl, who is dressing trashy and is covered in tattoos. It is through the roommate, Steph, that she meets lonely, cruel, misunderstood, English boy Hardin (aka the mix of Edward Cullen and Christian Grey).

From here we have a game of love-hate between the two, he is emotionally unavailable and she is trying to fix him, while he treats her like garbage. From downgrading conversations and public humiliation, somehow the author is making the relationship sound like a normal thing just because Hardin is the first men to touch her, give her an orgasm and have sex with her. Like a true villain, he exposes her to her boyfriend, makes her fight with her mom that cuts her off, makes Tessa move in with him only to separate her from all her friends and hides the truth about his work, friends, and the reason why he got with her in the first place.

As an excuse for his behavior, we learn that Hardin has been through a lot in his childhood, witnessed the rape of his mother, had an abusive and alcoholic father that left them both and moved to the states, where Hardin gets sent by his mother to try to get close to his now sober father who is the rector of the college where he and Tessa are going.  Yeah yeah, a truly sad story that is the perfect excuse for a bully. NOT!

Long story short: Hardin makes a bet with his friends that e can get to sleep with Tessa and proves that to the group by showing them the blood-stained sheets. Don’t know why but this to me sounds like an Amanda Quick horrible story novel, that takes place in the 60′ and not in our days. Clearly, Tessa finds this the hard way when Molly, the bad girl, exposes the story in front of everyone, but somehow finds a way to forgive Hardin and still be together at the end of the first book.

As for the next books, apart from very detailed sex scenes that can make even the kinky ones blush, they fight and reconcile (aka have sex), every 20 pages. Move from one city to another, Tessa gets her dad back only to find him dead and Hardin finds out that his father is not the one who he thinks but the family friend (duh!). Steph the roommate turns out she is a psycho bitch that tries to get someone to rape Tessa and tape her, but she is saved in the last moment by the friend that is trying to compete with Hardin for Tessa’s love (?), at the end of the book he also turns out to be a psycho. As a plus to all of this, we learn that the game of sleeping and taping girls were Hardin’s thing(WTF???). The events might not be in this specific order but all happen along with some other toxic relationship behaviors.

So what is about these books that makes them so popular? It looks like Anna Todd wrote them to be a combination between Twilight, 50 Shades of Gray, and a fanfiction request (her words not mine), so everyone fell in love with the teenage love story. Until here nothing out of the ordinary, but as an adult (almost 30) reading those books, a lot of question marks poped. If the first 2 books were somehow interesting since one couldn’t tell how far is Hardin going to push Tessa, the last 2 were just boring and felt like I was trying to look at Young and the Restless 1500 episode ( for those who don’t know the show, it was popular in the 90′ and it was a never-ending soap opera, don’t know if it’s still playing today, but it was horrible). And to make matters even worse there is a 5th book with before the relationship action, I have the book I just couldn’t find the strength to put myself through that yet.

As I continued reading through the book series, I keep on asking myself what kind of message is it sending? As a teenager in the 00′, it was the fantasy of each girl to make the bad boy good, to break through the wall the misunderstood guy build and to find out that he has a soft side ( did I mentioned that Hardin can quote from Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice? Clearly all the *real* men read those books and memorize them). Why did we have those fantasies? Because that is what romantic movies told us. As teen movies nowadays make a lot of money, we are seeing the pattern even more often, so that leave 2 horrible directions for today’s teens: be bullied because he is worth it, he will turn around, and the second is a bully since girls love that and will do anything to be with a bad boy. Nop, nop, nop!

As you have probably guessed there is also a movie after the books (SHOCKER) that stars two pretty young faces. Luckily the plot is altered and the movie story is less graphic and less shocking. To be honest, their relation is way less toxic than the one from Twilight, it’s just a regular teenage romantic movie, so I am guessing they played that one right. The chemistry between the two actors is nowhere to be seen, or maybe I wasn’t able to see it.

The After series is just another try at getting a piece of the cake that would be a blockbuster aimed at teenagers created from the horrible combination between vampires tales and the story of the girl that gets beaten by a cute guy that happens to be very rich so that makes it ok. There are a lot of books with more or less the same plot these days, but I have to say that the 1.2 billion readers notice that is advertised on the book cover is a bit scary, but maybe I shouldn’t be the one to talk since I am in that number as well.

How about you? Have you read it or are you planning on doing so? If you did read it, what are your thoughts on the subject?