I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t been incredibly impressed with the To All the Boys movie, I probably would never have read or finished To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. Which is horrifying. Even to me, this sounds like blasphemy considering how much I love these movies. But, the truth is, my first experience with this book left me dropping it about a third of the way through for something more entertaining to read. And then I promptly forgot about it.
For over a year.
If that’s not a sign of how not blown away I was by this book, then I don’t know what is.
I think there’s something to be said for what actors can do to make you fall in love with a character. See, unlike a fair many who reviewed this book, I actually don’t mind Larua Jean. In fact, very much so she reminds me of what I was like when I was in eighth grade. Perhaps she reads a little immature for a sixteen-year-old, but the fact of the matter is she’s also a sixteen-year-old who has been somewhat of a social outcast for quite some time. So, to me, it makes sense.
But I hated Peter.
And, ultimately, out of the two of them, I preferred both movie counterparts to the books. In fact, I preferred everyone and everything about the movie to the books. And while I won’t say this is necessarily a bad thing, it’s definitely not great for the book. I just couldn’t quite reconcile my adoration for the film with the story this novel was giving me. Everything I loved was a shadow of itself here.
Most of it, fortunately, wasn’t inherently bad. I think what it really came down to were three things. First, I spent most of the book bored. I don’t know what it is about contemporary novels, but they can get boring so quickly. And, much as I hate to admit it, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before somehow managed to miss the mark on keeping me engaged.
Second is the fact that Laura Jean’s writing skills are immensely subpar to what I imagined they were when I watched the movie. And I get it, really. It’s not easy to write a character who is a brilliant writer. It’s not easy to write characters writing exceptional stories or letters in the novel. And Laura Jean is a teenager, so fine, this is fair. But her letters were just awful and I hated them.
Finally, and most egregious of all, Peter is as uncharming and jerk-ish as he could possibly be without being downright unlikable. I have to give it to Noah Centineo, he took this meh and blah character and turned him into an adorable, sweet, and charming guy worth falling for. I totally get how Laura Jean and Peter fell in love when I watch the movie. But when I read the book? Oh my skies, the lack of chemistry and charm make it impossible not only to enjoy reading about them but to buy their relationship in the first place.
The movie is just so much better.
It’s unavoidable, really, acknowledging this fact. And yes, I loved this film. But the book? Ugh, it would have just ended up in a long list of mediocre books that I find myself regretting reading because there are so many better books to read. And then I’d likely have missed out on the adorableness that are Lana Condor and Noah Centineo as better versions of these characters. I’m honestly so grateful that I didn’t read the book first.
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One thought on “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before [Jenny Han]”
Good to know! I also thought the movie was utterly adorable, and now I know that I never have to read the book.
(Sidenote: I would give similar advice to anyone who loved Crazy Rich Asians, but more because the movie is a rom-com and the book is…not. It’s not bad, just a completely different genre. And it’s not good enough to overcome the disconnect.)