A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that To All the Boys I Loved Before is a romantic book that features some sexual material, including kissing and one steamy hot tub make-out scene. Lara Jean discovers that her older sister had sex, and admits to thinking about what it would be like to have sex herself. There's also some swearing, junk food mentions, and party talk (Peter remembers a girl who got drunk freshman year at a party and did a striptease; he and Lara Jean go to a party where there is drinking; later, Lara Jean's friend tell her she brought shampoo bottles filled with tequila on a ski trip). There's a sweet message about the importance of sisterhood, and Lara Jean learns to take more risk in life, even if it means opening herself up to more pain. This book may lead to philosophical discussions about love, and teens may also want to discuss the significance of having a half-Korean narrator at a time when readers are calling for more characters of color in books for kids and teens. It also inspired a movie on Netflix.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Poor Lara Jean. The half-Korean narrator of TO ALL THE BOYS I LOVED BEFORE has a romantic side, and has written love letters to five different boys. ("They aren't love letters in the strictest sense of the word. My letters are for when I don't want to be in love anymore.") She never meant the love letters she wrote to boys to actually leave her possession, but suddenly some of the recipients are letting her know they got a letter in the mail, including Josh, the recent-ex boyfriend of her older sister Margot. Mortified, Lara Jean goes to a serious extreme to get things back to normal, including starting a fake relationship with Peter -- who got a letter of his own. Suddenly, she's part of a crazy love triangle (or actually two).
Is it any good?
The plot is a bit contrived: If you were writing letters that you never meant to send, why would you address them? But once teens get over that bit, this is a book they will love. Romance may be driving the plot -- and it's certainly fun trying to figure out who Lara Jean will ultimately end up with -- but it's really the relationship of these sisters that make this book so amazing. There's perfect Margot, romantic Lara Jean, and cute-but-bratty Kitty, who all work hard to keep their family together after their mom's death: baking special Christmas cookies, lying to their white dad about the quality of his Korean food, even inventing a crazy dance that ends in the splits.
The details make the family seem really real. That's why the book's most spine-tingling scene is not about who's kissing whom but rather the moment when the tension finally breaks between Margot and Lara Jean, making the narrator realize: "We are sisters, and there's nothing she or I can every say or do to change that."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Lara Jean. She and her sisters are half-Korean, while mixed-race characters are pretty rare in children's books, which lack diversity overall. Have you read other books that feature a family with a mixed-race background? Why do you think diversity is so lacking in kids' and YA books?
Why do you think stories with love triangles are so popular? What other books you've read or movies you've seen use this device? How did you hope the one in To All the Boys I Ever Loved would work out?
What do you think Lara Jean will write in her final letter to Peter? What will happen next between them?
- Author: Jenny Han
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: April 15, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 369
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (abridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 13, 2020
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