Sunday, August 2, 2015

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Amazon Description: Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

My Review: Sweet and simple. That's the best way I can describe this book, and you know what? I really liked it. I didn't expect to; I was initially put off by the juvenile-sounding title. But I gave it a chance and I'm really glad I did because it was CUTE! And sometimes cute is what you need. 

To clarify: it's not the book I expected it to be. Not sure if this is a spoiler...but the mailed-out letters actually played less of a plot than I'd expected them to. I was anticipating some sort of mad rom-com caper with seven different guys giving Lara Jean issues. That's not really what happened. Honestly, only like TWO of her letters even made a huge impact on her story, but...okay, whatever. I still liked the story, so I'm not too bothered.

A lot of people have said they can't stand Lara Jean because she was too babyish, too innocent, too "dumb"... I disagree. Was she innocent and naive and trusting and girlish? Yes. Was she childish and hopeful and sweet? Yes. Does that mean she should be hated, or even disliked? Not in my opinion. I feel like, as a society, we've become so used to disillusionment and cynicism and nihilism and jaded attitudes...that we feel like someone has to be kind of dark and gritty to have depth. That someone has to face the harsh, cold winter of life and suffer through the disappointing realities, blah blah blah. You feel me? 

And while that's all true sometimes—and those characters definitely should exist—I feel like we've forgotten how to value innocence. It's ironic that people disliked Lara Jean for being too innocent and childish, when society continuously degrades teenage girls when they try to act mature and adult—and degrades teenagers in general when they try to act jaded and world-weary. I mean, can a young person (especially a young girl!) ever really win? 

I thought Lara Jean's innocence was cute and refreshing. She was hopeful and nice. She valued her family and what's more, she really LIKED her family (which is rare in books). Maybe she wasn't as worldly or experienced or mature as other teenagers might be, but guess what? Innocent teenagers exist! Naive teenage girls who wear lavender sweaters and bake cupcakes at home on Friday nights exist! And I liked her. She was cute and funny and endearing.

The story itself was cute, as well. I loved getting to know all the Song girls and their dad. Jenny Han did a good job making the family feel three dimensional. I especially liked Kitty Song; that girl needs a book dedicated to her when SHE'S a teenager, because you just know she's going to have some stories to tell. The plot was very light and slow-paced; nothing overly dramatic happened but I was still happy to enjoy the light, breezy ride anyway. Lara Jean's and Peter's banter was adorable and I really came to like Peter K. I'll admit that there was nothing in this book to make me ADORE it the way I do some books...but I felt good while reading the book. I liked reading about Lara Jean's friends and family, her romantic struggles, her clothing choices, her entire life. It wasn't exactly an escapist beach read because it did touch on some sadder subjects, but it was definitely a feel-good novel that was giggly and sweet.

My only complaint is that it ended VERY abruptly. So abruptly that I was actually pretty startled and wondered for a moment if my book was missing some pages. However, there's a sequel out, so I'm not too bothered by the ending anymore! 

Cover: IT'S SO CUTE. I know I keep using that word in connection with this book but it's true! It's so pretty! The model is so cute and I love the bedroom in the background, it's so airy and light... It's one of the nicer YA covers I've seen in a while.  

Overall Grade: B+

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Amazon Description: When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor. 
On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

My Review: Do not read this book for the substance. Read this book for the style—both literal and metaphorical! Crazy Rich Asians can sort of be described as the Shopaholic series meets the Gossip Girl series meets Jane Austen. This is the part where you go, Jane Austen? Seriously? Are you mad?

No, I am not mad. (Okay, maybe I sort of am...but that has no bearing on this review.) Jane Austen's books never have huge, complex plots; rather, her books' strengths lay in her wonderful, witty, and wry characterizations, her ability to tell a story just be detailing mundane mannerisms and witty banter and colloquial dialogue. And Crazy Rich Asians was, surprisingly, very similar in this aspect! There WERE tangible plots, don't get me wrong, and quite a few of them—divorces and affairs and weddings and mysteries—but they all sort of blurred and blended together. What REALLY stuck out were the characters themselves! Tiny details about them and their lives, their personalities, their families... It painted a very interesting picture and I actually really grew to like several characters. So people who like Jane Austen—who can get behind character- and society- and mannerism-driven books (versus plot driven)—could actually really like this book.

And as for the Shopaholic and Gossip Girl aspect...I don't think that needs much explaining. The book is STUFFED with luxuries and lavishness. Brand names (some I'd never even heard of, which was startling), cars, houses, food, parties, social codes of conduct... It was glitzy and golden and frou-frou and I loved it. It was pure lush escapism and the fact that it took place in Singapore, that it told a story about rich Asian people, only made it all the cooler, because I think we're all pretty familiar with stories about wealthy white people. We've seen enough movies/shows and read enough books to know how it goes with them, whether West Coast or East Coast or European. However, ASIAN wealth? Not a world many of us are privy to often! And even though this book was obviously dramatized, due to some research I did, the lives of the fabulously wealthy in Asia aren't really all that different from how Kevin Kwan wrote. 


This book is just pure fun. I couldn't really find any faults with it, because what's to hate? We had a likable, middle-class narrator whose shoes we could easily step into. We had drama and romance and pure, bubbly, mindless fun. Was it revolutionary or thought-provoking or something you'd reread a hundred times? Probably not. But sometimes you just need to kick back and read about fashion and gossip and the crazy things that crazy rich people do!

Cover: I really like it. I'm not a fan of the hardcover cover so I'm glad I got the paperback. The colors are vibrant and the design is simple and elegant. It's chic and fun, which pretty much describes the feel of the whole book!

Overall Grade: A-