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

Honestly, the only reason I picked this book up was because I felt a weird obligation to see Lara Jean’s story through to the very end. Plus, with the success of the first book’s movie adaptation, there will no doubts be an adaption for all three of these books. While I’m personally satisfied that I finished the entire trilogy, I honesty can’t believe how boring this book was and what a poor ending to the trilogy it was.

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?

In each of my reviews of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before books, I’ve noted just how bland Lara Jean is. Her personality is basically that of a idealistic Pintrest board: cool and quirky in theory, but lacking any real depth or follow through. Her relationship with Peter still lacked a lot of chemistry for me (team John Ambrose all the way). Peter himself was a jerk to Lara Jean most of this book, making their relationship even more confusing. Margot was actually the best character of this book – she was coming back home from being at school abroad to find that her whole family dynamic had shifted while she was away. Her dad was getting married to one of their neighbors, someone who Margot had very little history with. Reading how she reacted to feeling like an outsider in her own family was fascinating and surprisingly nuanced. I had never really connected with her in any of the previous books, but this time around I really enjoyed her.

One of my gripes about this particular entry of the saga is that it leans way too hard on pop culture references. The overuse of references (including to the musical Hamilton, romantic comedy movies, and more) felt like a crutch. Liking movies/musicals/books is not an entire personality, and it felt like the constant name dropping and references to these pop culture phenomenons was used in lieu of actual character definition and/or interesting dialog. Also, an inordinate amount of the book is dedicated to describing what people are wearing in great detail. I understand that Lara Jean prides herself on her quirky wardrobe, but describing it shouldn’t take whole pages.

The biggest problem with this book is its lack of follow through. The plot is very slow moving: it follows Lara Jean’s senior year, from applying to universities, to getting rejected from her top choice, to her figuring out that maybe she shouldn’t pick a school based on a boy and her finally setting on a great university. Spoilers: In the end, Lara Jean and Peter break up as she comes to the realization that she needs to start college with nothing holding her back. Had the book ended with this break up, I would have given it at least two more stars. Instead, in the last handful of pages, Lara Jean and Peter get back together and decide to try long distance. Having these two get back together was throwing out all of Lara Jean’s character growth – she had grown into an independent young woman and had realized that dating Peter long distance would mean she wouldn’t be able to experience her first year of university to its fullest. Then she threw all of that away just for the sake of a happy ending. I really wish the end moral of the story had been that Lara Jean needed to learn who she was and expand her horizons, but instead it was a lackluster ‘happy ending’.

If you managed to get through the first two books, you might as well finish the trilogy off if you want to stay ahead of the movies. If you haven’t started the books yet, I would recommend steering clear and finding one of the many better YA romances out there. 2/5.

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  1. I’d read the first two books but not this one. I had looked up the ending though. I think I’ll pass on reading this and just wait to see if that one gets a movie!

  2. I actually love this series, but I did feel like the pop culture references weren’t the best. IMO this is a cute and fun series, but that stops it from becoming a classic. It’ll get outdated fast.

  3. I loved the first book but not the other two. They were okay but not great for me.

  4. Oh no, such a shame this ended up being a disappointing read! I have the first one on my TBR shelf so I’ll wait to read that before I decide whether or not to get the others, I loved the Netflix film so much and I wondered what the books were like.

  5. I know how you feel about feeling obliged to see series though to the end. At least you’ve got this one under your belt now.
    Gemma @ Gemma’s Book Nook

  6. I’m sorry this book wasn’t what you expected it to be. It’s so disappointing when the last book in a series isn’t what it should be. I honestly only saw the movie, and while it was cute, it didn’t make me want to read the book and find out what else goes on. I get what you’re saying about character growth and throwing it all away just for the sake of a happy ending. That sucks. Hopefully your next read will be a 5 star one.

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