Jenny Han: A Young Reader’s Gatekeep


Courtesy of Jenny and The Challenge: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a series of three YA contemporary romance novels by Jenny Han.

Briana Quiroga Flores, Editor

To all the books I’ve read and loved before, I love you. I’ve loved you longer and truer than anything in my whole life, and I will probably never love anything that way again, but I cannot deny that Jenny Han’s world of books has given me the moon and the stars. From complicated love triangles to messy heartbreaks to fake dating, I’ve known love. I’ve known of the greatest love stories, but the truth is, there’s no one like Peter Kavinsky and the Fisher brothers. 

Within the last five years, Jenny Han has proven herself to be a best-selling author and producer as two of her trilogies, both of which are #1 New York Times Best-Sellers, have hit the big screen as she has partnered with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to adapt The Summer I Turned Pretty and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before into a TV show and movie series, respectively. Since each adaptation has been a huge success, she has not failed to bring every book to life following a year or two after every release. Jenny Han has even begun working with Netflix on an all-brand new To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before spinoff: XO, Kitty, which will embark on Lara Jean’s younger sister’s love journey.

While both sets of trilogies are undoubtedly masterpieces, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (TATBILB) outshines its preceding sister trilogy, The Summer I Turned Pretty (TSITP), as a book series. Perhaps, it is because I have always been a bit of a hopeless romantic yet introverted soul who has “loved” from afar, but TATBILB is every shy girl’s dream and nightmare, all in one, come true. It is a John Hughes rom-com fever dream. It is what excited my middle school self about going to high school. It gave me hope- the hope of surviving high school, of making my ‘far-fetched’ daydreams of being in a ‘relationship’ come true, of forming lost-lasting friendships that go beyond my high school years, and of staying true to myself yet getting out of my comfort zone and discovering who I am as a person (whatever that means). While I cannot say that I’ve gracefully fulfilled every aspiration Lara Jean Song Covey, the protagonist of TATBILB, has inspired, I can attest to Lara Jean seeing herself in me in learning how far I’ve come on my journey because, within every introverted hopeless romantic, there is a radiating, selfless, loving, high spirited, and quirky Lara Jean Song Covey, but nevertheless, TATBILB is more than a love story. It is about normalizing a new version of a culturally diverse American teen girl’s experience in the form of a contemporary romance novel, which in no way takes away from the story’s significance. If anything, it is a bonus. As Olivia Truffaut-Wong, a writer for Refinery 29, states, “a hopeless romantic who gets the boy? I can be her. I want to be her. With To All The Boys, I can imagine myself as the girl that gets the guy without having to erase my entire Asian identity.” Lara Jean is not the first Korean American to be distant from her culture or the first to fall in love, but she is one of the few culturally diverse characters whose ethnicity does not speak for their entire lives. Although she encounters an identity crisis throughout the course of the trilogy, it does not consume her or sabotage her relationship with Peter Kavinksy. She, instead, strengthens her connection with her family and her culture all while navigating the complications that come with finding love, and that is what makes her character and story so capitativing and validating. Not to mention, Lara Jean’s love interest, Peter Kavinsky, makes it incredibly hard to put every book within the trilogy down as he is easy to swoon over. 

There is no perfect guy, but Peter Kavinsky makes you think otherwise. As Jenna Guillaume, a journalist for Everyday, puts it, Peter “fits the classic Jake Ryan [from 16 Candles] mold.” However, he is certainly way much more than a classic heartthrob…he is the perfect boyfriend. Alexis Nedd, a reporter for Mashable, points out, “Peter Kavinksy is what [one] deserve[s] – a kind, empathetic person who loves wholly and does the work required to keep a relationship going.” Peter Kavinksy isn’t your average soft jock who falls in love with the quirky but shy “good girl.” He is what every boyfriend should aspire to be from the very beginning. He is the high but attainable standard, and as a teenage girl, it is important to recognize his character and have other young girls realize that boys should be and can be nice to girls and not just in a romantic setting because it is not hard, and Peter, himself, does so in every interaction he has with any girl, including but not limited to his mother and Lara Jean’s sisters and best friends.

To all the introverted hopeless romantics out there, don’t worry, it gets better. You, too, will find your inner Lara Jean Song Covey and get your own Peter Kavinsky, but in the meantime, read the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series because from a fake-dating trope to a groundbreaking main character and love interest, it is worth reading.

P.S. You should also read The Summer I Turned Pretty Series <3