I feel like a bad reader. I committed a cardinal sin: I watched the movie before reading the book. To be fair: the movie was all over Twitter and Facebook and I really wanted to avoid spoilers. Here’s the worst part: I liked the movie better than the book. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book, but the movie really cherry picked and improved the best parts (and had a phenomenal cast).
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara Jean as she reaches a pivotal point in her life: her older sister (the queen of the Song-Covey roost) is going overseas to go to university. With Margot leaving, their family balance is dramatically shifted and everyone is having issues adjusting to their new roles, including Margot’s ex-boyfriend (and the Song-Covey clan’s neighbor) Josh. To further throw off their balance – Lara Jean’s secret love letters are sent out – one to Josh, one to a boy from camp, one from model UN, one from a game of spin the bottle, and one to a school dance crush. As you can imagine, shenanigans ensue as Lara Jean deals with the fallout of the letters.
Lara Jean was honestly a bit bland for me. She really didn’t have a lot of personality; she was just kind of forgettable. Nothing stood out about her, it almost felt like you could swap out any number of generic YA female characters and still have told the exact same story. There wasn’t a particularly strong chemistry between her and Josh or her and Peter (which is one thing the movie did much better). Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship just felt fairly forced for the sake of a generic happy ending to me. I also wish there had been more resolution for Josh and the other secondary characters, but perhaps that will come in the sequel.
Lara Jean’s sister Margot was the one part of the book I really did not like. She broke up with her boyfriend, left her family to go to school across the globe, and then got upset when her family and friends changed while she was away. She lashed out when Lara Jean was trying to explain herself and just wasn’t a redeemable character in my eyes. Kitty on the other hand was just a kid – her emotional lash-outs felt realistic for what she was going through. She was a kid who lost her mother figure and was trying to get through grade school. She was just a better, more well rounded personality that really added to Lara Jean’s story. I think sometimes we could all use a Kitty in our life to ground ourselves.
Lara Jean was a bit bland for me. In fact, that’s my issue with most of this book Unfortunately, since I saw the movie first, I found myself drawing a lot of comparisons between the two, and finding that I liked how the movie developed the characters a lot better. Don’t get me wrong, the book is still enjoyable, but I would highly recommend that you read the book before watching the movie. If I had to rate this book, I would give it a 3/5 for being good, but not nearly as good as I had hoped it would be.