This book managed to do something that I had basically deemed impossible: it pulled off a love triangle. Without making me hate the book.
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?
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.
It is rare for me to pick up a book with a plot that promises so much Chicklit awkwardness. I’m glad that I “risked it” and picked this book up, though, because it was not nearly as overly dramatic and cringe-worthy as it could have been.
I have to say, the opening pages are not that great. I had read the Amazon preview a few times before I actually bought the book, because the quirky and humorous tone the book’s blurb suggested just isn’t there in the first chapter. Still, the writing gets better after the letters are mailed (which happened farther into the book than I had expected), and once the plot really gets going, I stopped paying attention to whether the writing was amazing or not.
Lara Jean writes love letters when she is ready to get over a crush. She spills out all of her feelings for a guy, puts it in an envelope, hides it in her hatbox, and stops being in love with the guy. The letters are never supposed to be mailed, and how they got mailed is actually a mystery for most of the book (which I liked).
*slight spoiler alert ahead…really it is just stuff that happens in the first chapters but I can’t talk about the book without mentioning these plot developments*
Though five letters get sent, there are only two boys who the book focuses on: Josh and Peter. Josh is the boyfriend of Lara Jean’s older sister, Margot, who just went off to college (and dumped Josh). With Margot out of the picture, old feelings Lara Jean had for Josh start to bubble to the surface, ones that get more complicated when he reads her letter. Peter is a childhood friend who grew up to be a jock and who just broke up with his longtime girlfriend Genevieve. Out of this mess of relationships, Lara Jean and Peter decide to fake being a couple. Lara Jean uses it as cover to get Josh to stop asking questions about the letter, and Peter uses it as a way to piss off his girlfriend, who cheated on him (and who he clearly still loves).
As cheesy as this plot sounds, it actually worked. There was the right amount of socially awkward scenes, balanced by some sweet moments between Lara Jean and Peter. I liked that both Peter and Josh hated the other guy; their warnings about the other guy made it harder for me as a reader to decide which guy I though Lara Jean should end up with. Yes, this book is dominated by the love triangle, but it wasn’t unbearable, and this book renewed my faith in the plot device.
The other plot line running surrounds Lara Jean’s family. There are three sisters: Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty. After their mom died years ago, Margot took over as the leader of the household, since their dad is an OBGYN and does not spend a ton of time at home. The book begins with Margot going off to college, leaving Lara Jean to take her place, even though Lara Jean really does not have a personality tailored for this kind of responsibility. On top of the romantic drama in Lara Jean’s life, she has to deal with keeping her family on track, as well as pressures from Margot to be the amazing student junior year that will get her into a “good” college.
Honestly, I hated Margot. I’m not sure if Jenny Han intended for me to hate her, or if I was just bringing my own personal experiences (and my friends’ experiences) into my reading experience, but I never liked Margot. I hated that she left Lara Jean all alone and then expected her to be the perfect head of household as well as the perfect student. She was just so…judgey.
Their dad was also not my cup of tea. I understand that he was a doctor who had to work lots of weird hours and who had never learned how to lead his family (since he had his wife, and then Margot), but still, his absenteeism and his willingness to let Lara Jean deal with all of the scheduling, cooking, and organizing for the entire family bothered me. The family dynamic was presented as mostly healthy and loving, but it reminded me of a dynamic one of my friends lives every day that is absolutely the opposite, and I just could not handle the positive spin all of the characters seemed to have on their lifestyle.
Though the family plot line did help demonstrate Lara Jean’s character growth throughout the book, it really only served to annoy me as I was reading. Probably, someone coming from a different high school experience or someone lacking my issues with this type of family dynamic would not have the issues I had with this part of the book. Still, if this part had been different, I think this book could have earned at least one more star in my rating.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a chicklit read that has an entertaining, but sweet romance. Though I liked the ending of the book and felt like it could have been a standalone book, I am excited to read the sequel, PS I Still Love You. It just came out this week!