Friday, June 30, 2017

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Release Date -  May 2, 2017
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  336 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

**spoilers for other novels in this series**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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? 
Endings of series are difficult. Endings of series that were never planned as series are even more so. I wasn't sure what to expect from the final installment of Jenny Han's To All The Boys I Loved Before series. What I ended up getting is a poignant, heartfelt look at navigating high school, first love, and the bittersweetness of growing up. It's also the perfect end note to a brilliant series.

The bond that exists between the Song sisters is the most important element of this series. We see how their connection changes as they each grow, but their love for one another remains steadfast. Their relationship is painted as one that even when they hurt each other, the love is there. It reminds me of my own relationship with my sisters, and I feel this relationship is what makes these books so charming.

My favourite part of this novel is how grounded in reality Jenny Han makes it. She doesn't shy way from the unpleasant emotions that plague her characters. Jealousy is a huge part of the last two novels in some form. It also looks at feeling left behind as things change around you. We see Margo adapt to not being with her family on a regular basis as momentous changes occur. This story arc was building in the last novel, and I loved seeing it continue in this one. Through Lara Jean the novel examines having the stress and pressure of your plans for the future veering off course, and the joy at finding a new path that may just be what you needed all along. Jenny Han's characters are filled with a complexity that breathes life into them. She ensures that even as they sometimes make mistakes, the love they share shines through.

Lara Jean's character growth is most evident at the end of the novel. She's not the girl we met in To All The Boys I've Loved Before. She'd matured in a way that feels authentic to both her character, and the process of growing up. This novel specifically looks at the emotions surrounding the high school chapter of your life ending. The bittersweetness that exits in both the sadness of saying goodbye and the excitement of a new beginning. It captures the realization that things are going to drastically change and will not be the same. It honors the reality that relationships will change along with these other changes that are happening. Those bonds will inevitably morph into something else. This includes family bonds that will change as you no longer see each other every day, or live under the same roof. This novel captures all the highs and lows of this time and it does it perfectly.

The romance, like everything else in this novel, is crafted so realistically. There isn't a magic fix to the problems Lara Jean and Peter face in this novel. It's not something that can be brushed aside. They are facing growing up and that may mean growing apart. I don't want to give too much away about this story arc as it is the crux of the novel, but I loved the message Jenny Han delivered with this final installment of Lara Jean and Peter's story. Fight for what you love, but don't compromise your future and happiness for it either. It's a balance that fit the bittersweet tone of the story perfectly.

Kitty, once again, steals the spotlight. Her spunk and charm was entirely winsome and I would welcome a trilogy based around her high school experience. She is destined to be a main character and I hope that, eventually, she'll get her time in the spotlight. Especially if it means looking in on characters we've come to be so fond of.

Lara Jean's story concludes with her venturing into college. These are her first steps towards adulthood, and  her future. Jenny Han has created a trilogy that is, at its heart, a story of a girl navigating her way to the beginning of adulthood. It is also the story of first love, family, and coming into your own. If you're a contemporary young adult fan this is one series you cannot miss. It's something truly special. 

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with your thoughts! Jenny Han's writing is so perfect and captures perfectly the happy but sad part of growing up. This book got me so sentimental. I will definitely miss Lara Jean!


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