Tuesday, 28 August 2018

'To All the Boys I've Loved Before'; a book & film review!

I got this book for my birthday a couple of years ago from my gal Clare; I’d been so excited to read it but unfortunately that thing happened when I popped it on my perfectly colour-coordinated shelf, 100% meaning to read it ASAP, and then… time passed, and other books came into my life. And here we are.

But of course when I saw the ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ trailer appear on my Netflix, and then suddenly cute gifs and quotes from the film were popping up all over my timelines, I knew I had to grab it from the bottom of the pile and get on the hype. 


(Photos in this post all taken in Cake Room, my regular haunt in Hastings)


This story is all about Lara Jean Song, a 16 year-old girl with a huge heart… and a hatbox full of love letters. And not love letters she’s received or actually sent to anyone – ones she has written for every boy she’s been in love with, that she never intended to actually send. Then one day, quite unexpectedly, a couple of these boys she once loved come up to her, either at school or on her doorstep… with the letters in their hands. How on earth did they get them!? And what is she meant to do now? 
(Not gonna lie, I did almost this exact thing when I was a teenager, and would have died if my crushes read my secret gushing notes about them in my diary (which I recently dug out and threw in a fire!))  

I really liked the book, which I obviously read a couple of days before seeing the film – because, no offence Netflix, but I find the book is always better (and I have a pin badge saying so). Jenny Han writes really sweetly, the plotting is smooth, and I was utterly convinced throughout that I was reading from inside a teenage girl’s mind. I completely related to her feelings, for nice boys and bad boys – okay, maybe not bad boys as such, more like douchebags, also something I relate to wayyy too much – and I also found the family story lines really touching. I have been Margot, the older sister who went away to uni during some of my little sis’ most formative years, and I remember how it felt to leave my family behind as I went off to start a new chapter in my life – a mixture of excitement, dread, intrigue, determination, and guilt. 

I’ve also had a myriad of guy mates who I’ve seen going through break ups, and despite what society may (very incorrectly) suggest, that women 'always have it harder' in heartbreak, damn it was tough for every one of them. So yeah, I really felt for Josh. 




** slight spoilers ahead, skip to the next photo if you haven’t read the book or watched the film! **

I was totally Team Josh for most of the way through the book; maybe that’s because I really loved how close he was to the family, even after his relationship with Margot ended, or perhaps I’m just messed up because really, I knew it wasn’t realistic to expect them to get together – I mean, he dated her sister!!  but idk, I still had a weird hope. But slowly, Peter grew on me. I guess I knew he would, just like I knew their ‘fake’ relationship would blossom somehow… and/or totally fall apart for all to see. And it kinda did both. 


The only part of the book I felt a little uncomfortable with was not when Lara Jean was called a slut and shamed for her (alleged) sexual antics with popular Peter – because that plot point was meant to be upsetting – no, I actually found it very jarring when Lara Jean argued with her sister, Margot, about her having sex with her boyfriend of 2 years before she moved away to university. The fact that LJ had kept that ‘card in her pocket’ for a while before throwing it out there was quite shocking – because why is it such a big deal that Margot did the deed with her serious partner, and, more importantly, what makes it her little sister’s business!? Hmm. That didn’t sit well with me, and was the reason this book lost 1 star in its review on my Goodreads





Now, for the film…

I don’t think I’ve ever finished a book and then almost immediately watched the film adaptation. If anything, I do it the other way around a lot (e.g. The Princess Bride, Stardust, Silver Linings Playbook). 

I’ll admit I was thrown a little to begin with, because I saw a similarity between Josh (Israel Broussard) and Peter (Noah Centineo). I swear, they look weirdly alike in the face at first glance, but obviously differ a bit in build. But then as the film continued, the differences in personality and their unique relationships with Lara Jean (Lana Condor) pulled them apart perfectly. Big sis Margot (Janel Parrish, aka Mona from PLL!!) was also brilliantly cast. 

I really liked some of the slight plot alterations/condensing of scenes; the plot was sped up nicely and one of the things that bugged me most in the book (see above) wasn’t even in there! I also loved little things, like them making LJ’s fear of driving a bigger deal, and the use of Instagram as a major, and at times toxic, social platform in high school (oh wait, it is IRL too). I liked that the ending wasn’t quite how it was in the book – it was more. And I weirdly loved the soundtrack the whole way through; the funky pop stopped it getting too sugary sweet. The only thing I'd say I missed was the real feeling of closeness between Josh and Lara Jean's family. He definitely was more present and had more to say in the book. 

Of course, I loved that the film stayed true to the book in that Lara Jean and her sisters were mixed race – their dad was white, and (sadly deceased) mom was Korean. My gorgeous friend Lauren Chassebi wrote a wonderful piece for The Independent about how the casting of a non-white leading lady is going to make some wonderful waves in Hollywood and inspire the younger generation of mixed race folks, and I really hope she’s right. Because the whole time watching this film, I kept searching my mind for other films or TV shows I’d seen with people of colour in leading roles – and I couldn’t even fill half a page. I know that’s partially my ignorance, and I swear to work on it as of now, but it’s also due to the film industry’s inherent bigotry and bias in so many areas. Can it change now, please? Cool. 


Read this book. Watch this film. I promise it will lift your spirits, give you all the cute fuzzy feelings – and maybe instil some hope in you for the future. 



Wanna keep up with my reading before I post about it on the blog?
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2 comments

  1. Fab reviews of both :)
    As lovely as the book is, I think I preferred the Netflix adaptation, because it missed out what I didn't like!
    Cora | http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I definitely liked the plotting of the film adaptation - and what they left out!

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