My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
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?

The final installment of Jenny Han's series about a shy introvert who blossoms in high school is a love letter to fans of the series.  Like Lara Jean's quest to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie, the author creates a story that is soft and gooey in the center, chewy near the middle, and crisp on the edges.


What I Liked:
Gooey Center:
Staying with the cookie analogy, there is such warmth between Lara Jean's family.  It is one of the most lovely representations of a sweet family I have ever seen in a YA novel.  Usually, families in YA books are famously dysfunctional.  But this book highlights that some teens do experience loving parent-child, and sibling, relationships.  

That's not to say that everything is bliss in Lara Jean's world.  Her widowed father is marrying again.  And while Lara Jean is happy for her dad, her older sister, Margot, is hostile toward her future step-mom.  This causes problems for Lara Jean as she wants to be loyal to Margot, but also give Trina (her dad's fiance) a chance.  

Chewy Near The Middle:
There are some big issues facing Lara Jean as she progresses through her senior year of high school.  Will she get in to the same college as Peter?  What if her college dreams are different from her boyfriend's?  If you're trying to keep a relationship going after high school, should one person's dreams dictate how the other decides about college?  These are difficult choices that many teens will make in the waning months of high school.

Crisp On The Edges:
One big issue in the story is when (and if) Lara Jean and Peter will have sex.  While Lara Jean says she wants to, Peter questions her motives for wanting to sleep with him.  Does she really want to, or is she just trying to create a final memory before ending their romance?  I also think some of her ambivalence stems from Lara Jean's fears about becoming an adult, and the mixed signals her father gives about sex.

Lara Jean's father seems to have a hard time seeing his girls as young women, giving them some mixed messages about sex.  On the one hand, he is liberal enough to give Lara Jean a "college kit" filled with condoms, but he gets visibly uncomfortable when Margot brings her boyfriend home from college and announces they will sleep in the same room.  It seems like he wants a "don't ask, don't tell" policy about sex.   But I think in reality, most parents feel this way. 

There are also trickier issues.  Can Lara Jean and Peter make a long-distance relationship work?  Even if they wind up at the same college, will they get the true "freshman experience" if they are tied down to each other? 

I loved this part of the book because I was in a similar situation in college.  Ultimately, my boyfriend and I carried out a three year long-distance relationship while I was away at college.  I never felt deprived of the college experience because I didn't go to college to find a boyfriend!  I was there to study.  I had plenty of fun, and I was able to concentrate on my school work.  And our relationship worked out.  We have been married for 29 years!

To me, one of the main themes is the dissonance between the pressure from family and friends for Lara Jean feels to keep her options open, and the feeling that she has already found her soul mate.  While it's true that most people's high school romance will not stand the test of time, I have such affection for Lara Jean and Peter, that I hope they are the exception.

And here is my heartfelt letter to Jenny Han:

Hello Ms. Han,
In writing this series, you have created one of the most memorable love stories in all of YA.  I sighed. I cried.  And a little part of me died, knowing this was the end.  Please, please, please reconsider and keep these characters alive.  Maybe fast-forward three years and pick up on their last year of college.  Or (if they break up), have them meet ten years later and let the sparks fly!

Obviously you have created characters that feel like the reader's lifelong friends.  I cannot bear the thought that they will always and forever on the cusp of adulthood.


P.S. I still love you.                





Release Date:  May 2nd, 2017

Genre:  YA Romance

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

Length:  336 pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A worthy finish to a delightful series.

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  1. Your letter to Han was so sweet. I am hoping to get this book at the library soon, though, I think I have been putting it off, because I do not want to say goodbye to Lara Jean and the Song sisters. At least we have the movie to look forward to.

    1. Yes, I didn't want the book to end! But I think you will find this book very satisfying.


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2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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