THANK GOODnEsSd for libraries. I got this nice new book for free as an eBook from my library on overdrive, and it was great. I didn’t have to buy it! And it was lovely! And I binge read the whole series in four days! Also, this will be a long review. Deal with it.
Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Author: Jenny Han
Genre: YA contemporary
Themes: Growing up, relationships and boundaries, trying new things,
My blurb: The end of high school is just around the corner, and Lara Jean has to start thinking about the future—what university she’ll go to and whether she should stay with Peter. Meanwhile, changes are happening at home and Lara Jean’s beginning to realize that growing up is hard.
I’ve said this in my review of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before but I find this really relatable. It’s so nice to have a biracial main character (I seriously will go for any book with an Indian or biracial main character, honestly), and also someone who likes to stay at home and actually does homework and enjoys things like baking and craft and knitting. Part of what Lara Jean learns from Peter is to come out of her shell, but I like that she doesn’t sacrifice who she is for him, and just tells him to deal with who she is. This book in particular was super relatable because it’s set in Lara Jean’s last few months of high school and the summer right after high school, which I’ve just experienced. Lara Jean’s stress about getting in to university and her feeling of last-ness are all things I also have been through, and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that this was published in May (Shanti did a post about seasonal reading, btw).
A lot of reviews complain about how Lara Jean is super immature and juvenile, but I didn’t think so. Like me (and a lot of other people), she sometimes liked ideas (like a super ethereal wedding with flower crowns or her boyfriend’s note in her yearbook being perfect) more than the real thing. Immature isn’t the same as just being a quiet yet strong heroine.
Lara Jean didn’t have sex with her boyfriend, which I really liked. She didn’t want to, which was a smart choice, and again, not that common in YA books. I definitely would be the same.
This book has also been critiscised for talking about too many unnecessary details. But that was one of my favourite parts. A lot of contemporary books skip the mundane parts of a character’s life, but (as Lara Jean says in P.S I Still Love You) the little, mundane parts are what make up a real life. I loved reading about Lara Jean baking or scrapbooking or tickling her little sister or watching Peter play lacrosse, because my ordinary life has those details. (Side note: Lara Jean bakes like ALL THE TIME. I just find it surprising that her father doesn’t lecture her about heart disease caused by eating buttery sugary foods as my doctor parents do. (plus, you know, the price of ingredients but hey whatever doctors make a lot of money))
I could talk about the ending (rather good) and the characters all day, but I want to discuss some of the themes instead.
- Growing up and leaving home: It’s always going to be hard. But it can also be good, especially when you know you can come back to visit)
- Family: Basically, sisters are the best, and family should always come first. Spending time with your family is a good thing to do, not dumb like most YA characters believe. I really liked the scenes with Kitty because she’s similar to my little sister. Even when you fight with your family, you always come back together. ❤ ❤ ❤ Also, leaving home means your family changes without you, but that’s okay too
- Relationships: Change, especially as you grow up. It’s okay to let go of old relationships but still cherish them (like Lara Jean and Genevieve), and it’s also okay to keep the ones dearest to you as you move on with a new chapter of your life. (P.S It’s okay to break up with your boyfriend after high school, but it’s also okay to stay together)
Overall, I really enjoyed the tone of this book, the lovely weaving of themes, and Lara Jean’s loveliness.
Writing style: 4/5
Have you read this book/this series? What kind of elements make a book an auto buy for you? Which books have you found relatable recently?