Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han



Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: hardcover, from my library
Status: book 3 of the To All the Boys trilogy

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Summary:
Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.


Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Review:
It has been an absolute pleasure to return once again to the world Jenny Han created in To All the Boys. The book totally stands on its own, but I think it's great to have PSISLY and Always and Forever showing us more of Lara Jean's life. I always say that the hardest thing with contemporary sequels is that to have an interesting story, there has to be conflict. In a series where the original conflict is getting the lovebirds together, the conflict in any sequels will almost always be about the romance; whereas with speculative fiction, the conflict is usually external of the couple's relationship. So yeah, PSISLY and Always and Forever introduce a lot of conflict for Lara Jean and Peter K, but honestly, I'm down because it's incredibly realistic.

Always and Forever is very much a book about endings and about change. In some books, the end of senior year is just a blip as characters go off to Real Life, but Always and Forever really portrays how final graduation can be. You spend so much of your life with your classmates during elementary, middle, and high school, and then after graduation, there is a high likelihood you will never see many of those people again. Lara Jean reminds me of me, the way she clings to people and to memories. Change is really freaking hard, and I think we all knew by the end of TATB that Josh would not be around much, but it still made me sad to hear Lara Jean and Kitty talk about it and how scary it would be to lose Peter from their family. Also, over the course of three novels, we hear about the Song Girls and how together they are. But Margot is off in Scotland most of the time these days and now Lara Jean is headed off to college. It's sad, but it's also really cool to see how these sisters grow on their own but still come back together.

One thing that was amazing to see was how much Peter has changed over the course of the series. It's funny that Lara Jean picked out "you're welcome" for his quote; I think that fit him pretty well in the first two books, but that cocky, BMoC Peter is suddenly more unsure of himself, and that's kind of refreshing. I love sports so it's always interesting to see how many people don't realize how much the intensity of sports changes when you change to a new league. Be it pee wee to high school to college to pro, athletes, even the naturally talented ones, have to continually work harder than ever to keep their footing. Peter's on top of his high school game, but I loved seeing his struggle as a rising college freshman trying to keep up with his new teammates, who are grown-ass men. Also, considering the series is first person from Lara Jean's point of view, we get to see Peter and their relationship through her eyes so we know how much it means to her. It was nice to see Peter truly work at the relationship. He's one of those guys who things just... come easy to, and I liked seeing him a bit off-balance but still fighting for his goals. It's easy for readers to see how Lara Jean has grown, but it was nice to really see that development for Peter.

One thing I appreciate so much is how Lara Jean and Peter's physical relationship is handled. They keep their business fairly private, which is nice, but they're not ashamed of where they are. I love Peter so much for never pressuring Lara Jean (except for five more minutes of cuddling, which is precious). I think sometimes the YA community at large is so into sex positivity regarding slut shaming that people forget not to... well, there's not a word for it, really, but prude shame seems to fit. I once got into a discussion with someone who said Lara Jean is immature; I disagreed then and now. She's not immature; she's just a different kind of protagonist. I think it's important to show characters who have sex and characters who don't. I also think it's incredibly important to show girls who make the moves and decide they're ready, as Lara Jean does during one scene, as well as boys who decide it's not right and they're not ready, as Peter does. This is the kind of equality and positivity I'm here for. Also, I love that Lara Jean's dad gives her a contraception kit for school and that she is educated and prepared to use it. A++.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before has been a wonderful surprise series, and I think Always and Forever, Lara Jean was a  fantastic and fitting ending. It's a little bit bittersweet but a lot sweet. I'm very grateful for this beautiful, funny, heartfelt, silly, fluffy series just for existing. It's been an absolute pleasure and delight to spend some time with these characters. I feel like all of them are good and more or less settled where they've been left: Lara Jean and Peter are off on their college adventures together and apart (but I think they'll be just fine), Margot is facing the world head on, Mr. Covey and Trina are together and happy, and Kitty... well, Kitty is totally going to actually take over the world one day. If Jenny does get an idea to continue someone's story, I would love to see high school Kitty kicking ass and taking names.

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About the Author:
Jenny Han is the New York Times bestselling author of Shug, The Summer I Turned Pretty series, co-author of the Burn for Burn series, and most recently, the To All the Boys I've Loved Before trilogy. She is a former children's bookseller and children's librarian. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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3 comments:

  1. This is a perfect review and really captures my feelings on the book and series too! The best kind of surprise series, and so realistic that I didn't mind the drama because it was done really well. It's a favorite series of mine that I know I'll want to revisit someday, growing pains and all :)

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    1. Thanks, Morgan! <3 If all standalones got a series like this, I'd be all for it. Not every story can pull this off, but I'm so glad Jenny gave us more. I don't remember if you do audio, but I just binged all three, and they were utterly perfect. If you want to reread at some point, definitely check out the audio!

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  2. Sounds like a realistic, bittersweet charmer--and fun!

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