To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han is a teen love story that has many layers if you take the time to work through the plot and character development presented in this novel. I’m a firm believer that you can find foundational lessons in any well-written book that can teach you lessons that are applicable to your own life or can show you how to be sympathetic to those who have lives different from your own.
1. All high school kids don’t have it easy
- It is so easy to assume that high school students have it easy with no bills to pay, no “adult” responsibilities, but that simply isn’t the case. Lots of students show up to school every single day with huge pressures on their shoulders or hardships they are enduring which no one knows about. In To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean is facing the reality of living in a single-parent household and taking over the “big sister” position of helping run their household after the eldest sister goes off to college. While memories of her mother make her heart ache, she is also experiencing growing pains of her sister leaving home, which can be a lot of emotions for one teenage girl! Not to mention, her secret crushes receiving her personal letters confessing her love to them…
2. Stereotypes in Y.A. persist
- The stereotypes in this book similar to many other stereotypes in the genre – the “jock” guy is more than he seems, while the somewhat “hip” girl sees who he really is, thus creating a love story. Although these are common stereotypes found in Young Adult literature, that does not mean that they cannot teach you a thing or two about life. In high school, especially, there are cliques, there are stereotypes, and there are heartbreaks. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before does a great job with capturing these stereotypes and breaking them in a healthy way.
3. Heartache extends past a significant other
- As mentioned above, in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean understands the reality of heartbreak through the loss of her mother and through the absence of her sister. Often, heartbreak is only discussed through the terms of romantic relationships, but the truth is that your heart can break by the loss of any significant person in your life. Lose a friend? Wow, does that hurt. A family member? It can really rock your world. This book opens up conversation about the less-advertised forms of heartbreak that are just as (if not more) significant than romantic heartbreak.
4. Double standards are no joke
- We see Lara Jean experiencing the power of toxic rumors after an evening alone with her boyfriend, Peter, which changes the way her classmates view her & her reputation at large. Sadly, we see, as the readers, that the rumors are not true, but with Lara Jean being a girl and Peter being a guy, we see Peter being high-fived for a scandalous rumor while Lara Jean is “slut-shamed” for something that isn’t even true. The harsh reality is that girls often have to face the brutal reputation blemishes that boys aren’t as harshly criticized for – although this is a tough situation in the book, it is not unlike real life & offers room for discussion about double standards in society.
5. Authenticity is important.
- You know those nightmares where you show up to school in your underwear & are dying of embarrassment? Well, that’s basically what Lara Jean experiences when her love letters that she writes as a way to let go of her crushes/loves are sent out to each guy. Yikes. That’s a nightmare in and of itself, but you know what? She is able to learn a valuable lesson. Her letters were authentic. 100% from the heart. Instead of being made fun of or embarrassed by these letters, Lara Jean (blushing) admitted to writing the letters and owned up to the content, and it seems like the guys actually admired her more for being authentic. People always appreciate honesty and authenticity, and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before subtly reiterates that importance.