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Khanh the Killjoy

Gross!

To All the Boys I've Loved Before - Jenny Han

There are certain lines that you do not cross, and coveting your beloved sister's ex-boyfriend is one of them. That's why this book made me gag a little.

This book was purposeless. There was no ending. There was no romance. There was no character growth (and the main character was pretty dumb to begin with). I don't usually read contempory YA novels, but when I do, I have certain expectations. I want sweetness, I want a character that matures, and I want some really cute romance. Yeah. Me. Wanting a cute romance. It happens!

That was what I wanted out of this book. I don't think it's too much to ask. I didn't get much of anything, so really, it felt like I read this book for no reason at all. I am left completely unsatisfied. Why did I waste my time?

In short:

1. There is no ending!!!!!!! If you want a definite conclusion or an HEA, get the heck away from this book.

2. The main character (Lara Jean) is silly, childish, and privileged in a sheltered upper-middle-class kind of way. She never really matured.

3. There was no true romance. There is a halfhearted love triangle. The romance is a literal "contract," a pretend one to make an ex-girlfriend and a former crush jealous. They are friends, nothing more.

4. The main character has long since been crushing on her big sister's ex-boyfriend. Excuse me while I throw up my recently ingested dinner.

5. There is almost no female friendship in the book. Lara Jean has a best friend (Chris) who is an outrageous, loud slut, and they so rarely talk and that their relationship feels pointless and artificial.

The Plot:

"[Josh] is into you.”
I freeze. “No, he isn’t. He loves my sister. He always has and he always will.”

Lara Jean has been in love with Josh for a long time. They've grown up alongside each other for the past five years; her dad and sisters all adore Josh. There's just one problem with her little crush: Josh is dating her older sister, Margot. Margot is about to leave for college, so she decides to do the decent thing and break up with him. Josh is left brokenhearted. Lara Jean sees him crying. She thinks...

If you were mine, I would never have broken up with you, not in a million years.

Lara Jean is a romantic. She has had a few crushes in her life, and she has written love letters to all of them. There has been five.

And now there's a problem: someone has sent all her crushes the love letters that she wrote them (if you can't guess who it is, we seriously need to have a talk). This is problematic...because Lara Jean wrote a letter to Josh. And Peter.

This is a nightmare. Peter Kavinsky is holding my letter in his hand. It’s my handwriting, my envelope, my everything. “How—how did you get that?”
“It came in the mail yesterday.” Peter sighs.

To a teenaged girl, to any girl or woman, really, this is truly a mortifying experience, having your crushes find out is just an unimaginable humiliation. When Josh finds out, Lara Jean has no choice but to save face. She pretends to be dating one of her letter recipients, Peter. It turns out that Peter is in need of a little distraction himself.

“Let’s just do this for a little while.”
“Do what?”
“Let’s let people think we’re a couple.”
Wait...what?

Peter has recently been dumped by his girlfriend, Genevieve. He wants to make his ex-girlfriend jealous, Lara Jean needs to pretend that Josh means nothing to her. They enter into a dating contract. But then Lara Jean finds himself liking Peter...but is Peter truly over his ex-gf? And what happens when Josh realizes that he might have feelings for her after all?

“Ever since I got your letter...I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you.”

Lara Jean: Inoffensive, silly, stupid at times, and incredibly boring. Lara Jean reminds me of some of my baby sister's friends. She is so starry-eyed with innocence that I just wanted to slap some reality into her. She is stupid at times, she runs a stop sign, she takes some stupid risks involving her own baby sister and a car seat, she would probably buy the London Bridge from you if you offered it to her.

I have a sudden revelation. I lower my voice and say, “Wait...can you read?”
He bursts out laughing. “Yes, I can read! Geez, Lara Jean.” He snorts. “Can I read? I’ve written you multiple notes! You’re hilarious.”

She never really matured throughout the novel. Her maturity at the end of the book equates to "I can order pizza for my dad and sister while my older sister is out of the country now!" She has the sort of wide-eyed innocence that makes me think, "Child, the real world is going to chew you up and spit you out one day." I want a certain toughness in my main characters, not a starry-eyed fluff of an overprotected, privileged upper-middle-class girl. Her definition of maturity includes admitting to her mistakes...

I brighten up and then I remember how Margot said I’m in charge now. I’m pretty sure taking responsibility for one’s mistakes is part of being in charge.

Lara Jean feels like a 13-year old.

Your sister's EX, REALLY?!: I don't know about you, but I find the thought of dating my sister's ex pretty fucking nauseating, and I'm willing to bet that my sister feels the same way about my ex-boyfriend. Let's get one thing straight, if you're going to be in a relationship with someone, there's going to be some touching involved. You're going to go beyond first base.

The last thing I need when I'm kissing a guy is thinking about my sister kissing the same pair of lips. The last thing I need when I'm *ahem* a guy is knowing my sister has probably done the same thing to him. The last thing I need when I'm sleeping with a guy is to be thinking "Has my sister been in this bed? Under these same sheet?"

Gross. Gross. GROSS. No, thank you.

To top it off, do you really want to be dating a guy who was thinking about you when he was dating your sister? What does that say about his behaviors, his morality? What does that say about his character. Is he going to do the same thing to your OTHER sister 10 years down the road? (Lara Jean has two sisters) Do you really want your sister's leftover? Do you really want to date him knowing that he's had sex with your sister? Why would you even consider that? What kind of a sister would you be? I don't care if your sister broke up with HIM. It's still a betrayal of the worst sort.

Female Friendship: When I read a contemporary novel, one of the things I look forward to is a realistic, true portrayal of female friendship. Instead, I have this:

I wish I’d made more friends. If I had more friends, maybe I wouldn’t have done something as stupid as kiss Peter K. in the hallway and tell Josh he’s my boyfriend.

What Romance?: There really is no romance in this book. There is barely anything but Lara Jean mooning and daydreaming that she and Josh were Meant To Be, if only he could see it. Her fake relationship with Peter....petered out. Lara Jean may find herself liking Peter more and more every day, but there's the fact that Peter is not over his ex-girlfriend.

He doesn’t know it, but when Peter talks about Genevieve, he gets a certain softness in his face. It’s tenderness mixed with impatience. And something else. Love. Peter can protest all he wants, but I know he still loves her.

Lara Jean is supposed to be developing a true relationship with Peter, but how can she, when it's clear that Peter has a tremendous amount of emotional baggage.

Peter shakes his head. “What Gen and I have is completely separate from you and me,” he says.

I was truly disappointed in this book. I wanted a sweet romance. I wanted to be swept away. I didn't get anything, and the ending left me reeling with disappointment because, while it was not a cliffhanger, nothing ever got resolved.