Do not worry. My mug of tea sits beside me as I type this review. Jenny Han’s novel, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before invokes frustration and side-eyes from other planets. I promise to keep my feelings civil, even when the book urges me to forget civility.
We live in society pushing various books, songs, and movies as “must-have moments”, despite a myriads of said items swathed in mediocrity. Average is the popular kids’ table, while exceptional lingers in the bathroom until the lunch bell. May I push this book onto the popular kids with its cute cover and engrossing book blurb? Yes, I may, given that neither fit in the actual book’s plot, dialogue and characters.
How do I sum this story?
Small wonder tells a story about writing three love letters in middle school back in the day (She’s a high school student) to three or four crushes and how they’re mailed to them years later. She convinces us to stick around for seventy-two – yes, seventy-two chapters of lethargic drama and emotionless dilemmas.
Hence, the Small Wonder reference. Okay, I’m aging myself. But, I have 1980s and 1990s references out of the wazoo. Bear with me. They compel me to use them.
Why is the novel and its series popular? I struggled to NOT DNF this book several times. Of course, I read worse. But, I couldn’t get to the bland and robotic tendencies Lara Jean expressed. The girl’s a walking bore. Clueless, privileged, and childish. It’s okay to have a naive character. I’m not equating naivete with boring and bland, if the writer makes her or him remarkable. Lara Jean’s not. She’s a sixteen year-old with a twelve year old’s voice. Checking to see whether I read a YA adult novel’s not a good thing when you believe you’re reading middle grade fiction.
Additionally, her sisters are literal sister cliches – the older sister’s the responsible one and the youngest one’s a rambunctious nine year-old that often reads as a tenacious first grader. But, you know I can’t lie. I did like Kitty, the youngest. She’s the only one showing character. The ONLY one. I hate to put the title “Saving Grace” on a child, but let’s be real: Give her a book series.The rest of the characters manage to remain blah throughout the tale.
In another false move, Han managed to throw in the one-note “school slut” archetype in Chris. Why are Chris and Lara Jean friends again, if the latter kept judging the former? I guess Han included her to say opposites attract; yet, I don’t see them every being friends in real life.
Furthermore, I found myself wondering the mindset of Han. She literally explained truancy and coconut cake like new concepts. Like, are you kidding me?
The writing’s pretty stagnant. Han tells much of the tell instead of showing details. For me, I love description. I need to feel as if I’m in the character’s head, body, and heart. Do not tell me everything happening in your story. Write details for me to overdose in sensory overload. I love those moments. Alas! I did not get that feeling by reading this story. What I received appeared bland, boring, and blaspheme as a guise for YA fiction when the book read as thrilling as a PTA newsletter.
Tea works wonders. Don’t excuse the pun. I’m owning it.
Overall, I garner zero connection toward any of the characters. Bad deal. I like to connect at least once with Good luck if you decide to continue with the series. But, to me, if the first installment’s bad, I’m not moving onward to the next bit.
On Goodreads, I see 4’s and 5’s mixed with the 1’s and 2’s. While I respect opinion differences, I can’t help but wonder if many of these 5’s come from paid reviewers. Cue conspiracy music.
Dull. Dull. Dull. Rating: 2