Book Review: “Always and Forever, Lara Jean” by Jenny Han

Two desires fought within me with this book. My hatred of things ending and thus never wanting to finish a series and my desire to not have the upcoming Netflix movie and discussion around it spoil the book for me. Eventually, the latter won out and I borrowed an e-copy from my local library which led me down an exciting rabbit hole throwing more and more books onto my to-read list. Whoops. I think I’m avoiding my TBR bookcase.

I loved the first book and the first movie. The fake dating trope is one of my favorites when handled well. The second one had me dying of second-hand embarrassment but after seeing the trailer for the third movie I was excited for the final installment of the series. Now the question was what would happen as Jenny Han said “It organically feels like two books to me– two halves of a heart :)!” and wasn’t planning to make it a trilogy. After all the previous two books had a lot to do with the letters that were accidentally sent out to all of Lara Jean’s crushes and we had after the second book found out what happened to every letter and the consequences.

The final book is Lara Jean’s senior year and all the struggles that come with that. It has a similar melancholy feel of things ending like “Toy Story 3” did to all the kids who grew up with the series and watched the release of the final installment right before heading off to college themselves. Lara Jean goes through all of the traditional USA senior experiences, senior class trips, prom, college applications, and waiting to hear back from them all to figure out what your future looks like, visiting college campuses, and non-school senior traditions. There’s the stress, worry, and sadness of drifting apart from everyone and the realization that things continue moving forward when you leave and you’ll miss things.

There’s a lot that happens in this book, and the trailer for the movie shows Lara Jean and her family in Korea, and I spent the book waiting for that. It’s probably my biggest complaint. It gets glossed over in the book while being made to seem like the main focal point of the movie. So honestly I don’t know if it’s a spoiler or not. But I wanted to see the Song girls in Korea connecting with their roots, I wanted to know what pastries Lara Jean was going to make in her class because I hate to say it but the one they hyped is probably my least favorite Korean sweet and I’m curious from a western baking perspective what Lara Jean a Korean American would think of Korean pastries. I like seeing Korea through other people’s eyes, especially after living there for 5 years and I wanted it so badly that when I got to the end of the book I was like wait, did we just skip the entire trip? So that’s something I’m looking forward to in the movie because I know that they filmed in S. Korea and I’m so ready to see Korea again. The other thing I really want is chocolate cookies and Lara Jean’s recipe.

There are a couple of other things that I didn’t fully understand. Why when Margot comes back with her boyfriend to visit she’s so adamant he sleeps in the same room with her or why she doesn’t tell her family that he’s vegetarian. Both these things put everyone in unnecessarily stressful positions and seemed like something the eldest daughter, specifically Margot, wouldn’t do? I also can’t figure out why Kitty was so uncomfortable around him and I want to know why. My hypothesis is she’s still wounded by Josh and Margot’s breakup. And the only reason I put that together was she asked Peter if they’d still see each other because she never sees Josh anymore. But it just came off weird and the fact it wasn’t explained bothered me. Because Kitty isn’t one to be shy. It’s not her personality, so it’s like a big flag for her to be like that and not talk about it. Especially not even to her sisters.

Surprisingly the drama in the book that really got me hooked was Margot being a little bratty about Trina. Like the passive-aggressive everything was not something I expected out of Margot so I was drawn in on that b plotline.

There’s a lot of things I also had to look up while reading this book because I didn’t know what it was. Swiss miss braids, swiss dots on a dress and awkwardly bonobo monkeys. I think the latter one ended up with me learning more than I ever wanted to know and I would like to return that information to the source and unknow it. However I want to know why it’s Ravi’s like favorite thing to discuss and why that was the choice for his “don’t get him started about”. And now I’m just wanting to scrub my brain with soap.

I think seeing the movie trailer before reading the book spoiled things for me and changed my expectations. Which isn’t what I was expecting. I also wasn’t prepared for the heavy melancholy of senior year. Lara Jean wants to stay close to home but the school nearby is super competitive to get into and to deal with her stress she throws herself into perfecting chocolate chip cookies and planning other people’s weddings even though they want something small.

I’m sure, especially since they filmed in Korea that the movie will veer off the book but this is one of the few times where I’m actually excited to see these changes. I’m looking forward to seeing Korea again

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