Some books are just impossible to not read - they are all over social media and everyone is talking about how amazing and life changing they are.
Usually, those books end up as one big disappointment: they are too hyped up and just can't live up to the expectations. Which makes it hard to review these books - were they really not that good or was the hype so big that no book can ever live up to it?
That's the question I'm struggling with after finishing To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han. It was a good book, a quick read with an original plot, but was it the best book of the year so far? Meh. I don't know.
Lara Jean is the middle Song sibling, in a household with two other sisters and their dad. The book starts off when Margot, the oldest sister and the "mother" of the family, moves to Scotland to go to University. As if that was not life changing enough for Lara Jean, who suddenly has to take care of her dad and younger sibling Kitty, her love letters unexpectedly get send to five of her former crushes.
Love letters? Yes, love letters and not your regular love letters - these are letters she wrote when trying to get over the guys. They were never supposed to be read by anyone, let alone the guys they are talking about (would you want a guy to read how you had a big crush on him when you were 11, but "he's not all that anyway" - awkward). But they mysteriously are delivered to the five guys and suddenly she has to deal with the consequences of these letters.
Lara Jean is a nice character, but I didn't fall in love with her. She's the typical YA girl that is "so quirky and special", but in a really cute and attractive way. I never really buy that - if she was that quirky, why does everyone love her? She's obviously just really cute and smart and maybe a tad clumsy and insecure, but that's about it - I would have loved to have seen more flaws in her. What makes her so different from Harper, Laurel, Emma...? Nothing really as far as I could tell.
The real saviour of this book is the plot - the characters are all kind of bland and predictable, but the plot is not. The idea of these love letters getting send already scored points for me - it's something I've never read about before, but it was realistic enough to really imagine it. As a writer, I've written many rambling notes to people and I would die if they would actually ever read it. So props for Lara Jean to live out everyone's worst nightmare.
Even more so, the book doesn't turn out the way you expect it to. You start reading and think "Oh Lara Jean will totally *SPOILER* *SPOILER* *SPOILER*", but she doesn't! There are many twists and turns that, again, are unexpected yet realistic. And added to that, YA fans will know that Jenny Han is an amazing writer. She writes in such an easy way that you'll finish this book in one sitting.
But can a good plot save a boring lead character? Not usually- I love books driven by characters and in this case, it just isn't. Lara Jean is the only character who is really explored, which is totally fine since she is the main character, but she's flat and unrealistic.
Still, I finished the book and had a happy feeling - I kinda enjoyed reading it. So maybe in this case, the plot and good writing can save a book. But not enough to make it the YA release of the year in my opinion. (For books I think could be the YA release of the year, look at We Were Liars and This Song Will Save Your Life) It's perfect though for a hot summer's day, like today, for which you want a fun and easy read.