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Book Review

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

High school junior Lara Jean Song Covey is a secret romantic who keeps old love letters that she has written to the five boys she has loved in the past. Lara Jean writes these letters as a form of emotional closure when she no longer loves a boy, so she openly pours out her heart on the page. When the letter is finished, she addresses and seals it before putting in in her vintage hatbox for safekeeping.

Lara Jean lives with her widowed father, Mr. Covey, and her older sister, Margot, and younger sister, Kitty. Margot’s boyfriend, Josh, is also basically a member of the family, since he’s been their next-door neighbor for five years.

Margot breaks up with Josh because she’s going to Scotland for college and does not want to be hampered by a long-distance relationship. Lara Jean is worried about how she, Kitty and their father will cope without the ultra-responsible Margot to organize their lives, but she’s also concerned about how the breakup will affect their family’s daily life. Lara Jean once loved Josh herself, but when he and Margot started dating two years prior, she wrote him a love letter and sealed it away in her hatbox, packing away her feelings for him so that she wouldn’t feel jealous of her sister.

The day that Margot leaves for Scotland, Lara Jean gets into a small traffic accident after running a stoplight. A nervous driver, Lara Jean has no confidence when it comes to driving. The accident makes her so emotional, she calls Josh to come help her. While she’s waiting and crying, her childhood friend Peter Kavinsky stops his car to help her. They chat for a while, and Lara Jean recalls that Peter was her first kiss. When she assures him that she’ll be fine, Peter leaves, and Josh arrives. Josh asks Lara Jean if he can still visit her, her dad and Kitty, even though Margot broke up with him, and she says yes.

The next day, Josh takes Lara Jean and Kitty to a movie, and he continues coming to the Covey house for dinner. In a conversation about first crushes, Josh admits that Lara Jean was actually his first love, which fills her with conflicting feelings because she’s certain that Margot and Josh will eventually get back together.

At school, Peter approaches Lara Jean and tells her that she’s wrong about the things she wrote about him in her letter. She doesn’t understand what he’s talking about until he shows her the letter he received, written by her — one of the love letters that should have been in the hatbox. She rushes home and discovers that her hatbox is missing, so she presumes that all five love letters have been mailed to the boys she used to love.

Lara Jean’s mortification over Peter reading his love letter pales in comparison to her fear that Josh will also receive his letter. At school, Josh confronts Lara Jean about her feelings for him. Lara Jean lies and tells Josh that her feelings for him were over a long time ago, then she lies again and says that she’s now dating Peter.

She sees Peter in the hallway and runs over to jump in his arms and kiss him, which confuses Peter, Josh and everyone else in the hallway. Lara Jean’s best friend warns her that Peter’s ex-girlfriend Genevieve still considers Peter her property and will be angry with Lara Jean for going near him.

Meanwhile, Peter decides that if he and Lara Jean pretend to date each other, it will make him look cool to Genevieve and make Lara Jean look cool to Josh. Lara Jean reluctantly agrees to his plan. Pretending to be a couple is difficult at first, but Lara Jean grows to like the attention other people pay to her when she’s with Peter, and she likes Peter’s friends and the social activities they do together. As they grow closer emotionally, Peter invites Lara Jean to go on the school ski trip with him.

Josh grows increasingly jealous of Lara Jean’s not-completely-fake relationship with Peter and reminds her again that he used to like her. When Josh kisses Lara Jean and says he thinks the two of them belong together, she realizes that she no longer loves Josh and is instead falling for Peter.

As she departs on the ski trip, Lara Jean initially tries to distance herself from Peter because she believes he will inevitably reunite with Genevieve. Peter tells Lara Jean that he likes her now and not Genevieve, which Lara Jean can’t believe because she thinks she’s not as cool as Peter’s ex-girlfriend. They get into a fight, and Lara Jean decides that if she wants to finally start a real romance with Peter, she’ll have to be brave.

She goes and meets Peter alone in a hot tub at the ski resort, and the two kiss passionately. The next day, a rumor spreads that Lara Jean and Peter actually had sex in the hot tub, and Lara Jean gets angry at Peter for not refuting the rumor more strongly than he does.

Over Christmas, Peter visits Lara Jean during her house Christmas party. Josh is attending the same Christmas party, and he and Peter get into a verbal fight over Lara Jean. Margot is visiting for Christmas, and she overhears Peter threaten to beat Josh up if Josh ever tries to kiss Lara Jean again. Margot is heartbroken that Lara Jean would kiss her ex-boyfriend, but the two sisters quickly sort out all their miscommunications and hurt feelings.

For New Year’s Eve, Lara Jean and her little sister, Kitty, decide to stay home and have a quiet holiday. Lara Jean tells Kitty that she misses Peter and she’s sorry that they had a fight. Kitty confesses that she was the one who mailed out Lara Jean’s love letters a few months back — the incident that sparked all of Lara Jean’s romantic woes.

Kitty apologizes for the betrayal of trust, and after Lara Jean forgives her sister, she decides to become a braver person than she has been previously. She pulls out her stationery to write a new love letter to Peter, to tell him that she still cares for him.

Christian Beliefs

The Coveys pray before meals when it’s a special meal in the dining room.

When Mrs. Covey was alive, the whole family went to church often, but after her death it became harder for Mr. Covey to take the family to church because of his work schedule.

Other Belief Systems

None

Authority Roles

Lara Jean’s father, Mr. Covey, loves his daughters and works hard to provide all the necessities of life for them. Despite being a busy OB-GYN, he makes time for his daughters, although most of the day-to-day work of house management is handled by his oldest daughter, Margot. Mr. Covey cooks Korean food for his daughters and tries to do whatever he can to preserve their cultural connection to their Korean heritage after his wife’s death.

The chaperones on the school trip try to monitor the students, but they miss some alcohol stowed in the bags and they don’t prevent the kids from sneaking off to make out in the hot tub.

Profanity/Violence

Profanity includes a--, d--n, the f-word, h---, b--ch and s---. God’s name is used in vain several times.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Chris, Lara Jean's good friend, is known for sneaking out of her home to make out with boys she barely knows. In her freshmen year, an older boy said that she had had sex with him. Even though the rumor wasn’t true, the negative reputation followed her. She did lose her virginity in her freshman year.

Peter was Lara Jean’s first kiss, and she only fell for him because of the emotional connection that developed after the kiss. Lara Jean jumps into Peter’s arms in the hallway and kisses him. Peter tells Lara Jean that one of her old crushes, Lucas, is gay because he makes bold fashion choices. When Lara Jean accuses Peter of being homophobic, he replies that he’s not, because his favorite uncle is gay. Lucas later confirms his homosexuality to Lara Jean.

Lara Jean and Margot made a pact to never have sex with anyone until they were either married or 21 years old and sincerely in love with someone. When Lara Jean finds a letter from Josh to Margot that says they had sex, she feels betrayed. Lara Jean and Peter make out in a hot tub, but rumors spread that they actually had sex, which negatively affects Lara Jean’s reputation for a while.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

16 and up

Author

Jenny Han

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Simon & Schuster

Released

On Video

Year Published

2014

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.