This was so much fun–I can’t wait to watch the movie now!
The story follow Lara Jean Song Covey (she goes by all four names at various parts of the story), the middle child in a family of three sisters who lost her mother when she was young. She’s sixteen, and she’s never dated before… but every time she falls in love and realizes it won’t work out, she writes the boy a “goodbye” letter just for her own closure, telling him all the things she never had the courage to say in person. This helps her to let go… and then she keeps the letters in a hat box in her closet that her mother gave her. The part that kind of stretched belief for me a bit was that she actually addressed the letters (talk about tempting fate!) So you can guess what happens: someone finds and mails the letters–all five of them. It’s a teenage girl’s worst nightmare.
But what ensues shows that Lara Jean has a lot more spunk than one might expect from a self-proclaimed goody two-shoes who never had the courage to mail said letters. In order to conceal her feelings for one of the five whom she’s recently discovered she still has feelings for (and who also happens to be best friends with their family, and her older sister’s very recent ex-boyfriend, Josh), she invents a fake relationship with another of the five, Peter. Peter happens to be the most popular boy in school, and the most popular girl in school recently dumped him–so to make his ex jealous, he goes along with the fake relationship too. They even draw up a contract, outlining the duties each is expected to perform. …But Lara Jean doesn’t count on Josh sharing her feelings after all. Or on falling for Peter. Or on her sister Margo coming home from college abroad, and getting blindsided by the whole thing.
What I love most about the story is how believable the characters are. Lara Jean is quirky and lovable, but not quite predictable. Peter is in some ways your stereotypical “cool” boy, with all the attendant imperfections–but he’s more than that too. Josh is the literal boy-next-door. Lara Jean’s insecurities make perfect sense with her history. Nobody is perfect, and the scenarios aren’t air-brushed to feel as romantic as possible: it feels like a story that might have really happened. Also, I didn’t predict how it was going to end until about 3/4 of the way through… but once I realized where it was headed, that’s exactly how I wanted it to go. I immediately bought the sequel, because even though this one does “end,” there’s clearly more to the story, and I had to know what happened next!
My rating: *****