Some Letters Are Best Left Unopened

Updated: Mar 11, 2019

Whenever I’m on YouTube, I can’t help but wander to the BookTuber section. Here, there are a variety of people (girls, guys, old, young) who are all tied together by one thing – a love of reading. While most of these people are fantastic (even those times when I absolutely disagree with a book review they may give), I will admit that I have a favorite. Cristina, or polandbananasBOOKS, never fails to give entertaining reviews down to the tiniest detail (including make-up that matches whatever she's recaping). Though it is a challenge, I try to read every book that she recommends even if at first glance it doesn't look like a book I would be interested in. The book below in particular started out as a novel I thought I wouldn't actually get into, but I instead ended up reading in one night.

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

What Made Me Read This Book? I don’t like the color pink. I don’t know why, but I never have and a part of me feels like I never will. Though this book screams pink and lace and softness and everything I prefer to avoid, Cristina sold it to me in her review. Her 2-minute non-spoilery pitch was enough to make me set my pink prejudice aside and log in to Amazon for a new purchase.

Lara Jean is in love with love. The feelings, the actions, the affections – she loves all of it. Her love of love has caused her to fall in “love” many times in her life with many boys - though she never actually tells them this in person. Instead, she writes them letters. Each time she falls for a boy and is ready to release those feelings, she puts pen to paper (old-school for a 16-year-old, very Aaliyah “4 Page Letter”) and writes out everything that she feels. Then she signs, seals, and delivers those letters to a hat box to keep them safe and unopened forever. Until one day, they get opened – by the very boys who were never meant to see them. Now, with her letters and raw emotions exposed, Lara Jean must deal with that mess, a fake relationship, family drama, and finding out who betrayed her and set all of this in motion. Maybe a safe box would have been a little more full-proof than a hat box.

My Rating: ✯✯✯✯ - Not only did this story actually feel authentic to the modern teenage experience, but there was a lot of baking involved. I ended up taking a recipe idea (or two) away from this book when I finished it.

Why? Firstly, its honestly hard to find a YA novel where the lead isn't white. Though Lara Jean isn't black, she is still a person of color and has life experiences which reflect that and which I can relate to (for example, the struggle of finding a Halloween costume). Reading from that perspective felt refreshing - a reminder that, yes, people of color do exist and deserve to be the focal points in stories. Not just reduced to the sidekick or standby character. Race exploration aside, this was just a really cute story. Jenny Han has such a unique writing style that chapters seem to fly by. I started this book and finished it in one night. When I read this book, I was the same age as Lara Jean (the protagonist) and at the same life point (a junior in high school trying to figure out what to do next). This was such a stressful, pressure-filled time that reading the light-heartedness of Lara Jean's love mishaps brought me peace, joy, and laughs. Due to a series of unfortunate events, Lara Jean is forced to pretend to be in a relationship with former crush, current semi-nemesis Peter Kavinsky. Though the premise feels at first stereotypical, the story plays out anything but. Jenny Han mixes pop-culture, with rom-com, and realism to make a story which feels authentic and relate-able (to an extent). The ending leads perfectly to the second book in the story - a continuation which only adds more levels to the characters and depth to the overall plot. 

Favorite Quote: "If love is like a possession, maybe my letters are like my exorcisms."  

Hint for next week: Moms

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