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What a ride.
I’m a biracial woman—my mom is Chinese Jamaican, and my dad is about as white as they come. When I was younger, there weren’t a lot of biracial kids in school or in daycare. For the longest time (as far as I know), I was the only mixed-race child. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen more and more mixed-race kids out and about and with that comes more representation in the media.
However, I can count on a single hand the number of half-white, half-Asian actors that are decently high-profile—I can’t even recall seeing a half-Asian character in a movie until Emma Stone played one in the disastrous Aloha.
So seeing a young half-white, half-Asian female lead in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was groundbreaking for me.
As soon as I realized Lara Jean Song-Covey was half-white and half-Korean, I immediately texted my mom. She’d been bugging me to read this book for the past three years, but I never bothered with it because other books interested me. With the Netflix movie coming out soon, I decided to take the plunge and start reading.
After Mom finished her “I told you so” dance (I assume), I told her how this was the first YA book I’ve ever read with a half-Asian female lead—until that moment, I’d never read about a character who looked like me and shared some of my experiences. I could relate to Lara Jean on a level I couldn’t relate to my other favourite female characters, and I related to my mother on a level I hadn’t been able to before.
I don’t want this review to be entirely about Lara Jean’s race, but I wanted to mention it to highlight how important representation is in the media, especially in YA fiction. These are the books tweens and teens are reading right when they start to become their own person—showing different backgrounds can only help young people as they grow and develop. Exposing readers to diverse main characters broadens their horizons and expands the way they view the world.
Anyways, back to our regularly scheduled book review.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the first YA book I’ve read in a long time, and it made me remember why I love reading books in this genre. The characters were relatable and realistic (especially Jamie Fox-Pickle, who’s a Wheaten Terrier—just like my Shelby and Charlotte!), yet the situation was not something I’d ever experienced before. I’ve never been in love, and until I find that person, books like this are as close as I’m gonna get.
The thing I loved the most about this book is how unpredictable it was. I was sucked into the story right from page one—I wasn’t comparing it to other YA books as I read through Lara Jean’s coming-of-age tale. It was only as I started thinking about what I would write for this review when I realized I couldn’t have anticipated anything that happened. It was such a refreshing experience—I only cared about the story, not about when Lara Jean overcame the odds to date her crush.
It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of major points got resolved in the last 30 pages, and none of it felt rushed. As a reader I didn’t feel cheated, and that takes major skill—mad props, Jenny Han.
All the relationships between the main characters were painfully accurate—complex, but never over the top or unrealistic. Margot and Lara Jean’s relationship was beautifully developed, even though Margot was away for most of the book. Plus, I have a soft spot for Lara Jean’s sweet father.
Overall, this is easily one of my favourite books of all time. It’s fast-paced, beautifully written, and so relatable. Jenny Han has become a top author in my books—I’ll definitely have to check out her other books soon.
Now, Mom and I can watch the movie when it drops on Aug. 17!