Lara Jean Covey is in her senior year of high school, and she’s happier than ever with her long-term boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky. They visit the University of Virginia’s (UVA's) campus together and make plans for the following fall, when Peter will begin his scholarship with the UVA lacrosse team. Lara Jean has applied to a few other schools such as William and Mary (W&M) and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), but her heart is set on UVA.
Besides Peter, there are many strong, positive relationships in Lara Jean’s life. She and her older sister, Margot, maintain close ties despite being separated by distance, as Margot attends a university in Scotland. She’s also close with her 11-year-old younger sister, Kitty, her widowed father and his girlfriend, Trina, and some of the elderly residents at her former workplace, the Belleview nursing home.
Lara Jean watches “promposals” unfolding around her and wonders how Peter will ask her to the dance, since he’s not usually the type to make huge romantic gestures. On the graduating class’s senior trip to New York, Peter and Lara Jean take selfies at the Empire State Building. Peter leaves his backpack on the ground. A suspicious security guard questions him, thinking he might have a bomb or weapons inside.
Instead, the backpack contains a teddy bear with a pre-recorded message asking Lara Jean to go to the prom with him. He wanted to do a special promposal at the Empire State Building because it would have been extra romantic for Lara Jean, whose favorite movie is Sleepless in Seattle. Even though the timing of Peter’s promposal is thrown off by the security guard’s interference, Lara Jean is deeply touched by the gesture and gladly accepts his invitation.
After returning from the senior trip, Lara Jean grows stressed over whether she’ll be accepted into UVA. She does late-night baking to ease her worries. Her dad is unable to sleep also because he’s been considering making his relationship with Trina more permanent. When he asks for Lara Jean’s input, she wholeheartedly supports his pursuing a commitment to Trina. He has been a widower for eight years.
At last, UVA acceptances are announced online. Lara Jean is crushed when she finds out that she wasn’t admitted. All her plans to visit her family frequently due to UVA’s close distance, walk to her classes with Peter and study at UVA’s famous Clemons Library are ruined. She drives home from school in tears. Her dad, Kitty, Peter and Margot sympathize with her, but nothing lessens the pain of having all her university dreams crushed.
Lara Jean’s free-spirited friend Chris wants to spend a year working on farms in Costa Rica instead of going to college and suggests that Lara Jean join her. Lara Jean quickly dismisses the idea and instead plans to attend W&M for a year before transferring to UVA to be with Peter, since it’s easier to get into UVA as a transfer student.
Mr. Covey enlists Lara Jean, Kitty and Peter’s help to set up a perfect marriage proposal for Trina. She accepts his proposal, and Lara Jean immediately goes into wedding-planning mode, imagining lavish centerpieces and ornate decorative themes for the upcoming event. Within a few weeks, Trina sells her house and moves in with the Coveys, and they begin their life as a bigger, busier family.
Lara Jean’s friend and former crush John Ambrose McClaren texts her to let her know that Stormy, his great-grandmother, passed away in her sleep. The funeral is too far away for Lara Jean to attend, but Margot suggests she hold a memorial service for Stormy at Belleview. Lara Jean’s heartfelt speech about Stormy’s life impresses the residents and John. After the service, John and Lara Jean discuss their college plans and find that John is likely bound for W&M, too.
Lara Jean sees Peter’s estranged father secretly attending one of Peter’s lacrosse games. Mr. Kavinsky asks Lara Jean not to tell Peter that she saw him. Mr. Kavinsky has been attempting to re-enter Peter’s life lately, but Peter is not interested in mending the relationship. Lara Jean worries that Peter will someday regret this choice, so she makes him promise to at least consider inviting his father to graduation.
Prom is a tremendous success for Peter and Lara Jean, and when the dance is over Peter takes Lara Jean to a local diner for a surprise party with all her friends, because a second after midnight starts her 18th birthday. When Lara Jean blows out her birthday candles, she wishes to always love Peter as much as she currently does.
During the last week of school, Lara Jean is notified that she’s been accepted to UNC. She hadn’t thought about UNC since they waitlisted her, but suddenly going there sounds exciting. Chris says they should take an impromptu road trip to UNC and tour the campus.
Lara Jean and Chris go. She reluctantly realizes that the UNC campus is gorgeous and that she can actually envision herself attending all four years there instead of half-heartedly going to W&M for one year. In the course of one evening, she changes her entire trajectory for college and decides to go to UNC.
Excited about her new decision, Lara Jean tells Peter about it, but finds him completely dispirited. The drive from UVA to UNC is almost four hours long, and Peter just realized that he’ll have to participate in physically demanding lacrosse practices and games almost every day of the week, which will leave him too tired to make the drive to see Lara Jean.
Yearbooks arrive at school, but Peter can’t think of anything good to write in Lara Jean’s yearbook. Before Lara Jean can get really mad about the yearbook, it’s time to prepare for Beach Week, the traditional week after graduation when the seniors rent houses on the beach with their friends to kick off summer and say farewell before college. Peter mentions that he invited his father to graduation, which pleases Lara Jean.
As a graduation present, Mr. Covey plans to send Lara Jean to Korea to spend a month with her maternal grandmother. Kitty and Margot will accompany her while Mr. Covey and Trina go on their honeymoon. Lara Jean has wanted to visit Korea for a long time, but she recognizes that this vacation will leave her nearly no time to spend with Peter before they start college in separate states.
Graduation day arrives, and Peter’s dad doesn’t show up, despite having been invited. After the ceremony, Lara Jean gives Peter a scrapbook she made of all their memories together. It includes the love letter she wrote for him in seventh grade, which Kitty mailed to him when they were in 10th grade, which in turn led to their becoming a couple. Peter doesn’t seem as pleased by the present as she hoped he would be.
Beach Week is as wild and fun as Lara Jean imagined. She shares a beach house with several other girls, while Peter stays a few houses away with the guys. Peter seems friendly and light-hearted every time they’re with others, but he seems emotionally cold when the two of them are alone, which puzzles Lara Jean. She can’t tell if he’s still upset over his father not coming to graduation or if he’s worried about her missing out on most of their summer plans due to the upcoming Korea trip.
Peter and Lara Jean get into an argument, and Lara Jean is increasingly uncertain about how their relationship will handle the strain of long-distance communication, paired with the added stress on Peter’s life due to lacrosse. Lara Jean invites Peter to her beach house and informs him that she’s finally ready to have sex. They kiss, but Peter decides to leave before doing anything serious, because he feels like Lara Jean is trying to initiate sex for all the wrong reasons, as if it’s her way of permanently saying goodbye to him.
When they return from Beach Week, Peter’s mom tells Lara Jean that Peter is thinking about transferring to UNC after one year at UVA. Peter’s mom is worried that Peter will lose his lacrosse scholarship because he’s so focused on getting closer to Lara Jean. Lara Jean reassures Peter’s mom that she’ll tell Peter to focus on school and athletics. Peter’s mom tells Lara Jean that it would be better for her to let Peter go so that he can make his own life choices, unencumbered by a girlfriend.
Margot and Lara Jean go to Trina’s bachelorette party, a 90s-themed event held at a karaoke bar. Lara Jean is stressed because she feels like she has to break up with Peter, so she keeps sneaking sips of the older women’s cocktails and gets drunk because her alcohol tolerance is low. When Peter arrives at the karaoke bar after attending Mr. Covey’s bachelor party, Lara Jean tells him that they should separate so he can concentrate on his athletics and studies. Peter says he can tell she’s been trying to get rid of him for a while since she gave him a scrapbook to remember her by. Peter accepts her decision and walks away. Lara Jean vomits and her father drives her home.
On Mr. Covey and Trina’s wedding day, Lara Jean is overjoyed. One chapter of her life is ending, but another era in her family life is beginning. After a beautiful ceremony, Mr. Covey does a father-daughter dance with each of his three daughters. When Lara Jean’s part of the dance ends, she sees Peter waiting to talk to her. She says she wants to undo their break-up, and he agrees. They both conclude that dating long distance doesn’t have to damage their futures in any way. Lara Jean and Peter are content to continue their relationship, which all began with a secret love letter written years before.