Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #3)
Author/s: Jenny Han
Publication: May 2nd 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Get Your Copy Here:
Plot in a Nutshell (From Goodreads):
Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.
Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.
But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.
When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?
Thoughts in General:
I am unabashedly in love with the original To All The Boys I Loved Before duology by Jenny Han because of how cute, fluffy and downright sweet the story of Lara Jean was (I actually have a review of the first book but sadly I haven’t written/filmed one for P.S. I Still Love You). When the surprise announcement of Always and Forever Lara Jean was unveiled, I freaked out!
Upon finally reading it, I’m very happy with it. It was everything that I ever wanted and more. I just love how consistent Lara Jean’s character was all throughout the trilogy. The winning factors for me are that it delved deep into her senior year, the admissions process for college, her relationship, and the awesome family dynamic.
The book covers all match and I am really happy! I think this is the only trilogy that I honestly love that there’s a girl on the cover because the photographer just managed to make it cool. It doesn’t have any cheese to it and I highly appreciate it!
Always and Forever, Lara Jean‘s cover is my second favorite in the trilogy (the first one being my ultimate favorite). The model really encapsulates Lara Jean’s personality and the overall styling of the props is spot-on.
I really enjoyed the overall story, however, I have to be blunt it does feel like there’s less structure in this compared to the other two books. There isn’t like a HUGE linear plot line and I found that endearing. It felt like I was really someone’s real life experience rather than a series of tropes and resolutions. Maybe it is because the author didn’t plan to write it anyway, so for me, it just felt like a special bonus novel (which in hindsight is what it really is)!
The family dynamic never failed to shine and I truly hope that more Young Adult fiction would learn from this series. Jenny Han’s treatment of a less dramatic family relationship made it true and authentic. The Song-Coveys aren’t perfect, but their love for each other is just incredibly palpable, which I haven’t read in any other YA book before. They definitely “Best Fictional Family Award” for sure.
All I’m going to say about the romance is, I approve (see the very spoilery discussion for the details).
Lara Jean Covey is my ultimate fictional crush and I think no one will trump her. Despite my obvious clouded judgment, my critical response to her characterization is mainly positive. She stayed true to herself throughout the entire trilogy. I’m not saying that there weren’t any developmental changes in her because there are plenty (she isn’t so shy anymore around people and she takes more risks compared to her past self), however, she didn’t have a head turning transformation which would have left me dizzy otherwise. Lara Jean had the same values that I admired about her and her voice was so consistent I truly fell in love.
For the rest of the characters, I think I might discuss them later in the spoilers section for safety measure.
Always and Forever Lara Jean is the concluding novel I wanted but never thought I needed until I read it.
Thoughts in Details (SPOILERS):
(NOTE: DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO BE SPOILED.)
Always and Forever, Lara Jean‘s central plotline about college was just amazing. I’m not an American so I didn’t know anything about the process and the emotional turmoils students tend to feel during these times. It was refreshing to see how Jenny Han showed it in this book.
I always knew that Lara Jean wasn’t going to get into UVA because what would be the twist in the novel otherwise. However, I still wished and hoped that she got in just because I love her and she wanted it so badly. Everything with this plot point felt spot-on, from the reaction she had (she planned on leaving William and Mary in a year so that she could transfer to UVA just to be with Peter) to the reactions of her loved ones (Margot’s disapproval of it was relatable).
Then that twist when she actually got into the University of North Carolina made me so happy for her. I honestly did not expect that, but I just love how her perspective changed. Up until at that point, Lara Jean was only so focused on being in the same university as Peter. Then when the UNC acceptance letter arrived and she visited the campus with Chris, she had an awakening that made her see the potential of this university and, oddly, that made me so proud of her development.
Let’s discuss the romance! This book has certainly made me appreciate Peter K to a point that I am happy that he’s the endgame. In P.S. I Still Love You I still had reservations about him until the end, but thanks to this novel I am now convinced he was meant to be with her. God darn it I have to take a lot of pointers from this dude because he’s damn romantic. That scene in New York where he staged that promposal was just ridiculously sweet!
And, of course, let’s not forget the cutest birthday surprise in all of YA history in my opinion. I distinctly remembered I read that scene on the bus and I had the hardest time playing it cool. When they went to that diner and Peter K recreated Lara Jean’s favorite scene from Sixteen Candles a goofy smile was plastered on my face! Seriously, the level of adorableness was through the roof on this one.
I can’t believe it. Peter’s recreating the end scene from Sixteen Candles, when Molly Ringwald and Jake Ryan sit on a table with a birthday cake in between them. When we watched the movie a few months ago, I said it was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen. And now he’s doing it for me.
-Jenny Han, Always and Forever Lara Jean
Of course, there are still complications with their relationship. In the latter part of the novel, you can taste the tension between Lara Jean and Peter especially after that disastrous night at the beach house (that was so awkward, I cringed). Everything blew up during Trina’s bachelorette party when Lara Jean got tipsy and that was when she decided to air everything out. I really sided with Peter K on this one because Lara Jean’s actions felt like she was saying goodbye to him, even though it wasn’t as blatantly said. Her gestures and comments were tinged with sadness most of the time, so I got where Peter came from. Another complication was Peter K’s mom, which wasn’t like a big deal. However, I have to note this trope sounded like a soap opera when I read it.
Thankfully we got a happy ending for the both of them, especially with that revised contract! What a perfect way to set the tone for their relationship!
Lastly, I really want to discuss Lara Jean’s family! A subplot of this novel was the wedding of Lara Jean’s dad and Trina, which was so fun to read. Her dad’s proposal was also cute (so many proposals in one book). I also liked how realistic Margot’s apprehension towards the whole thing played out because it felt authentic and Kitty was just as adorable as ever.
Let me tell you there were chockful of contemporary pop culture references in this book! Harry Potter and Hamilton just to name a few. The only lingering question in my head was where was Josh? I sort of wished we got a glimpse of what happened to him (I can’t recall if he had a decent ending in P.S. I Still Love You) because John Ambrose McClaren had a decent relationship. Nonetheless I am really happy with Always and Forever, Lara Jean!
Have you read Always and Forever, Lara Jean? What are your own thoughts about it? Please share them down in the comments section! Thanks!