The problem with many sequels is that expectations are almost always raised to a point where they are anticipated to surpass the standard that has been set by their predecessor(s). I was disappointed with this book. The characters seemed so fake, distant and overly stereotypical that I found myself cringing throughout it.
This book is the follow up to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. The premise of the first book was that a high-school girl called Lara Jean wrote letters to all the boys she’s had crushes on in an effort to move on from them. These letters get leaked and the book goes on to explore the consequences of that on Lara’s life.
Here is the plot summary from the back of the second book:
Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?
This is my own personal rating of the book
Language/Style: 5 points
Characters: 4 points
Plot: 4 points
Story: 4 points
Giving this book a total of 17 points out of 40 points.
(The following section of the review contains spoilers. Proceed with caution.)
This book had such a clichéd and stereotypical structure that it essentially added nothing to the story except decorative fluff. Due to its poor storytelling the character development also suffered immensely. Lara Jean and Peter were established as completely different characters in the first book than how they are presented in the sequel. This is perhaps due to a desire to reinforce additional drama and conflict, in order for this sequel to have an excuse to exist in the first place. Peter was established as quite a respectable person, being very courteous to his mother who he adores and rather intuitive for the most part. Yet in this book, he is changed to be a secretive, unintelligent, egotistical, self-absorbed jock who treats Lara Jean like garbage, as a lackluster attempt to create friction to the relationship.
Here’s the thing: You don’t have to change a character’s personality whenever it’s convenient to you just so that you can create conflict where there otherwise shouldn’t be any. Especially if you don’t put any effort into believably excusing this change while also organically developing the story from where it left of. What you end up with is an unbalanced character that is difficult to resonate with, breaking all immersion that has been achieved so far. The way Peter acts towards Lara Jean when they break up and when they fight, is very unlike him and only comes off as a cheap way for the writer to make the reader lean more towards John’s character when he’s introduced.
It’s ok for characters to be complex and multi-dimensional. They don’t have to be reduced to stereotypical formulas, especially ones that have already been used to death by countless other novels before them. You can have an athletic character who is secure with himself and open about his feelings, as well as a polite, respectable and inexperienced guy, who has issues with his temper. Instead, in John’s case, we get an uninteresting trophy of a person who is flawless in every way, just cause. He is not a realistic portrayal of any person, nor is the conflict which he is involved in viable enough to support the narrative. As if that wasn’t bad enough though, when Lara Jean chooses Peter over him, there is no substantial evidence throughout this story to support her decision. It seems like she’s dumping this ‘perfect specimen’ of a guy, only to give the readers closure in the end. Except not really since a character reset is just as probable to happen in the third book (if it ever comes out), so that the author can find even more cheap excuses to overstretch the narrative
Now, onto the relationship between Peter and Lara Jean. In the previous book I remember thinking how accurate and beautiful this portrayal of a young teen relationship was. In this book, I’m struggling to find reasons as to why I should even care for the small scenes with them together, mostly because of the way that Peter treats her. He lies, he manipulates her, he is straight up rude and the fact that she takes a conscious decision of returning to this detrimental relationship when she is given the opportunity to have something that is (seemingly) much better, is just mind-boggling. The author probably means to promote the idea that people shouldn’t give up on others because of their flaws or because they might be difficult at times, yet this message fails completely to come through as the mean-spiritedness of Peter’s ways only serves to make the outcome seem pathetic more than anything else. I’ve compiled a list of my main issues with their relationship in this book:
- When the video is leaked, Peter takes over the situation; telling Lara ‘not to care’ and that he’ll deal with it. Lara is allowed to feel however she wants, and taking control over something that could affect her future is not really Peter’s business. The first thing to do should be to contact a responsible adult and someone who can actually do something about this, since they are both so incompetent.
- Peter’s scene at the assembly, which some people might have found cute, I found to be quite terrifying. He seemed to have quite a short temper and swearing on stage like he did, didn’t help anyone. Then, being commended by everyone as well as Lara Jean encouraging him, transmits a very confusing message.
- Peter’s relationship with Gen. I have no problem with the idea of someone still being friends with their exes. They were important to each other, especially as they were each other’s firsts, and that meant something to them. What I don’t approve of, is the lying, secrets and manipulation he lays on Lara Jean. In a relationship, there should at least be some sincere communication between both parties involved. Peter didn’t need to tell her Gen’s secret, he could just say that they were hanging out and that he was bringing her to the party, plain and simple. Instead he manipulates the situation into it being Lara who’s on the wrong. That way, she feels guilty (although in all honesty what she was doing wasn’t that wrong) and she allows him to get away with whatever. Peter also blatantly accuses Lara of being jealous because she tells him that Gen posted the infamous video. Then when he goes on to discover that it was in fact Gen who posted it, instead of apologizing to Lara, or even address it, he hides it and protects Gen and then manipulates the situation again when Lara finds out, to make her to be in the wrong.
- The Break-Up. Some may say it was naïve and that’s how teenagers act. This could be true but at the same time, he was quite rude and blunt to her. He asks her to give him the necklace he gave her, ignores her, doesn’t want anything to do with her and consistently is around his ex (whom which I do agree with Lara Jean, he puts first above everything). Yet when she’s with John, he comes running back saying that he’s going to ‘win her back’. That’s not cute or romantic. That’s possessive and jealous over wanting what he can’t have.
You can be sure that there’s more than that, but these four points are the ones that I found to be the most glaring issues with their relationship.
I’m not saying it’s all bad. I did enjoy Gen’s character development, particularly the way in which it’s revealed why she decided to stop being friends with Lara Jean. What Gen did was wrong, but it was a realistic issue and it was followed with a hefty consequence.
I also enjoyed the small scenes with Kitty and the new puppy as well as their Dad. I also enjoyed Margot and Josh’s story. This was successfully portrayed as a convincing relationship. They were together, they cared for each other and then they broke up and moved on. There was pain, there was yearning and yet, they embraced it and realized there are other people around them and their lives are meant for themselves, not for whoever they’re in love with at that time and moment.
I did find the plotline of the elderly home to be a bit tiresome. There was too much coincidence and I didn’t exactly enjoy the characters although I enjoyed the party they had at the end.
Overall, I was really disappointed by this book. I know so many people and probably a lot of you guys enjoyed it, by all means let me know of what you thought about it in the comments. Looking forward to what everyone has to say about it!
Favorite Part: Things feel like they’ll be forever, but they aren’t. Love can go away, or people can, without even meaning to. Nothing is guaranteed.