Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: A Review

Besides love, the trilogy also tackles Lara Jean’s relationship with her family, broken friendship with former best friend Genevieve, and connecting with the Korean side of her identity. The book was followed by two sequels, P.S. I Still Love You, which centres around another love triangle, and Always and Forever, Lara Jean, which deals with Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship struggles as they get ready to enter a new stage of life: college.

Within weeks of release, To All The Boys was optioned for a screen adaptation, and in 2018, Netflix released To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, based off the first novel. The film, which featured an Asian protagonist as well as supporting characters, made a splash as much needed representation in young-adult romantic comedies. Since then, the sequels were also made into Netflix adaptations, with the conclusion of the three movie saga with the release of Always and Forever on February 12th. 

The To All The Boys Trilogy feels like a classic of the young-adult romance genre, alongside others like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything. Although it draws on the age-old trope of the love triangle, which was extremely prominent in young adult literature, To All The Boys actually manages to execute the trope pretty well in my opinion. And perhaps it is also because it’s used in tandem with the fake-dating trope, which one of my personal favourites in a romance. 

In an recent interview with Women’s Weekly, Jenny Han offers her take on love triangles:

“I don’t know if this is a trope, but I often feel like when there is a love triangle, in rom coms, the other guy is often kind of a jerk. And to me, it makes things too easy. I like it when there is a real choice involved. I like a rom-com love triangle when I do not know what will happen, and I will be equally devastated no matter who she picks.” 

I absolutely agree with this, and I think the books do a wonderful job at making the reader simultaneously root for both love interests. In the first book, Lara Jean is caught up between Josh and Peter, and neither of the are particularly “the jerk.” Everyone makes mistakes, but each character grows from their experiences and aren’t defined by them. However, I do think that the first movie does remove a bit of this complexity, and Josh becomes much less likable than his book counterpart. 

And in the second book, Lara Jean questions her relationship with Peter, while growing to John Ambrose, another of her letter recipients and former crushes. I think both the second book and movie strike a particularly good balance between both of the love interests. Peter and John Ambrose have completely different personalities and dynamics with Lara Jean, but they’re both interesting and it’s not a stretch to imagine Lara Jean having a great romance with both of them. It’s hard to make a choice between Peter and John Ambrose, and that’s what makes the love triangle compelling. Lara Jean’s indecisiveness doesn’t come across as annoying and boring, but it’s understandable.

Unlike the previous two books and films, Always and Forever, Lara Jean and its adaptation Always and Forever do not centre around a love triangle, but rather solely on Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship as they get ready for college. Both of them are set on going to college together, and then Lara Jean gets a rejection letter, causing a strain on their relationship. I think that what this book and movie did really well its portrayal of deciding between colleges and how it managed to depict a long-distance relationship as a hopeful ending. 

Lara Jean doesn’t get into her first choice for university, and she moves on from that, instead choosing another college that she feels happy and connected to. It’s also refreshing to see a film where an Asian main character is can apply to college with her parents being completely supportive of where she goes and what she decides to study. Eventually, Peter and Lara Jean come to an understanding as well, agreeing to stay together even if they’re going to be physically apart. I think that this ending was really impactful because long-distance relationships aren’t usually equated with happy endings, and Lara Jean’s last lines also circle back beautifully to the love letters that kicked off the beginning of book one. 

“And besides, you know one thing 3,000 miles is good for? Writing love letters.” 

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