Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Published: May 2015
Genre: young adult, contemporary, romance
Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?
Back when they were pretending to be in love, it was easy for Lara Jean and Peter to be a couple. But now they’re not pretending, it’s for real, and Lara Jean struggles to navigate her first relationship without comparing herself to Peter’s last. But a letter arrives in the mail from the fifth and final boy she wrote a letter to and her sister Kitty mailed off, and Lara Jean becomes more confused than ever. How is she supposed to navigate the world of love without her mother or Margot to guide her? And what exactly do all these feelings mean?
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was fantastic, and I truly felt like Han must’ve been my best friend when I was in high school because Lara Jean felt hauntingly similar to me (then and, in some cases, now). The same can be said with this companion book, only instead of the hilarity, confusion, and closeness of the sisters as the focal point of the novel, this book delves into stumbling through first relationships, what it means to be in love, and finding confidence in who you are without relying on others.
Lara Jean becomes her own person in this book. Instead of comparing herself to her older sister Margot and being a Margot to her younger sister Kitty, Lara Jean wonders what her mother would do. She wonders what her mother would say and do and talk about in various situations Lara Jean encounters with Peter and John — sex talks, jealousy, the line between just-friends and possibly-cheating. She isn’t alone in this, though. Margot has some tearful moments, wishing for their mother; Kitty, too young to remember much, just wants Dad to be happy and dating again. The lack of a mother in this book — from the perspective of having a mother once and then suddenly losing her — is so prevalent it made me wonder how I would’ve dealt with my high school friendships and relationships without my own mother. It made my heart break.
Part of Lara Jean’s navigation in this new relationship involves sexism topics. Which I loved. Lara Jean is curious about sex — who wouldn’t be, really? — but there’s a rather shocking event that plagues her throughout the novel. When a guy’s caught expressing his sexuality, it’s considered okay; when a girl is caught, she’s considered a slut (or, on the flip side, if she doesn’t express it at all she’s a prude). The double-standard keeps cropping up in discussion with many people in Lara Jean’s life, and I enjoyed how she soaked it in and applied it to her own situation.
And, on a slightly unrelated note, I love how much she enjoys fashion, baking, and crafting — all very feminine things — and still be one of the most feminist characters in YA. Reminds me a lot of Zooey Deschanel’s character Jess on New Girl — super girly, super feminist. You can totally be both.
As for the relationships navigated in this story…[highlight to read, spoilers ahead!] I was very much a Lara-Jean-and-Peter-forever girl, and while he certainly does explain himself at the end, I was a little saddened to see her give up on John so easily. In hindsight, I know I would’ve gone back to Peter (I mean, I had a Peter and I did go back to him), so maybe it’s my adult perspective telling Lara Jean to forget him and actually be with John, the better fit, instead. In my head canon, Lara Jean and John will be together in college, later years, and get married shortly thereafter. Cause they can last. The end.
If you haven’t already, you need to read this book. Although my reading funk only lasted a week, it felt like ages. Han certainly knows how to make someone sit and read and good story about love, friendship, family, and growing up into your own self.