Sunday, May 14, 2017

Book: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All The Boys I've Loved Before, #3) by Jenny Han

The To All The Boys I've Loved Before series are books that are really close to my heart. I've read the first book and found it really charming, so I moved on to the next, which I read last year, and it made me fall in love even more. I thought Jenny would finish Lara Jean's story right then and there: there was closure, but apparently, not enough. Now we've come to the conclusion of yet another charming series, the 3rd and final book (serious, this time?), this is Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han. No one's complaining, though.

source
Blurb:
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?
 (via Goodreads)
I've been too foolish to not write a review for the previous two books - but I was in a reading frenzy and writing slump back then so it got buried along with other book reviews I've yet to write at that time. That was a grave mistake - so I guess my thoughts on this post will reflect the series as a whole, just highlighting enough things for this one book.

First off: Lara Jean is such a charming main character. She's awkward, nice, all the goody-two-shoes that she was raised to be - but as someone said in her yearbook - "it's always the quiet ones that are the most interesting." We watch her grow up and experience things from that sweet-sixteen Lara Jean to now, this almost-college-girl eighteen-year-old Lara Jean. It was hard to read sometimes, but as a teenager, that was a necessary phase. Her denials, her insecurities, and her love - for her family, for her friends, for Peter. It was such a joy to witness all that. Plus, her style is on point! Pinterest-worthy, even. Jenny Han curated the perfect style that I loved. Lara Jean is, head-to-toe, my aesthetic. Like everything spells like pastel, knee-high socks, cute clothes, girly things. It was all I ever wanted to be when I was that age (and maybe even now? LOL). I find it really cute and alluring since I am really drawn to today's Korean pop culture - and it shows. If I have a comment, I guess I wished for more emphasis on the Korean heritage thing here.

Then again... there's Peter. Hmmmm... what can I say. Reading about all these potential book-boyfriend-list-worthy characters these past few months definitely drowned Peter's existence in my head. Lara Jean and Peter's story wasn't really that gut-wrenching and punch-in-the-stomach inducing compared to others. But it was special because of its sheer simplicity. When I read the first few pages, the spell was immediately back. I forgot how easily it is  for Peter K. to captivate a lost heart. He was adoooorable in this. The braiding, the Fight Club couple costumes, the promposal -- everything. And he was definitely more fleshed out in here than in the previous two books, at least for me - reflecting how he opened up more to Lara Jean compared from before. I love how their relationship made me remember that it's the little things that matter.

And alsooooo, how can I forget? The FAMILY. If there's one thing, besides the cute romance, that I'll take away from this series, it's the lessons about family - specifically the relationship between the Song sisters and the brief glimpses, emotions, towards the memory of their mother. All the mommy-memories are too much for me sometimes - but it was one of the reasons why I fell in love with the series in the first place, so it was a necessary thing to include in this experience. And I guess it was fitting since I read this book when Mother's day was just around the corner.

As someone who lost her mother just recently, this theme really hits home. I remember crying over the brief emotional moments from book 1 and 2 when they are missing their mom - spoiler, no shortage of that either in this book. Their family life served as the foundation of how they interact and how deeply their relationships with each other go. I love the Song Sisters to death, and though Lara Jean is the center of this series, you can't think of her without thinking of the other two, Margot and Kitty, too.

"How crazy, how thrilling that your whole life trajectory can change in just one night. I've always been scared of change, but right now I don't feel that way. I feel excited. I'm seeing now what a privilege it is, to be excited about where I'm going."

This book is about dealing with the inevitable changes that come along with growing up and accepting possibilities that, no matter how uncomfortable they are at the onset, may make all the difference in the life you make for yourself. I love how it doesn't feel like this story just revolves around Peter and Lara Jean's love story - but also about family, friendship and figuring out what she really want to do. Because life is like that - each aspect overlapping one another, all at the same time. This reminded me so much of the time when I was also preparing to leave high school and start college. Too much going on, too many drama. And when I look back, the experience just always leaves a smile on my face.

This was such a bittersweet goodbye to a series that is so close to real life, it's hard not to get attached. Weddings, college, decisions to make, things to leave behind. It's the perfect closure. I can't have it any other way.
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My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 out of 5 stars)

If you follow me on Twitter, here's my Always and Forever, Lara Jean Reaction Thread: CLICK HERE.
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Quotable Quotes:

"Never say no when you really want to say yes."

"Is this how it goes? You fall in love, and nothing seems truly scary anymore, and life is one big possibility?"

"The thing is, you get used to it. Before you even realize it's happening, you get used to things being different..."

"There's so much to be excited about, if you let yourself be."

"...love is about making brave choices every day."

"It feels good to say a proper goodbye, to have a chance."
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This is the 20th book I've read this year and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. This is also the 2nd book I finished for my #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge for Contemporary with Asian Main Character. #Bookworm2017

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