MOVIE + BOOK REVIEW: To All the Boys I Loved Before, Jenny Han

It’s been a while, friends. Work is busier than ever and my free time is now mostly spent catching up on my z’s and conquering my towering stacks of unread books. But last Friday (after a 12 hr workday), I knew I had to do something else before I turned in for the night: watch the TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE movie on Netflix.

And it was so perfect, I really have no complaints at all.

I’m super late to the party and only read the trilogy within the past year—but I loved it immediately. An Asian protagonist, love triangles galore, healthy family dynamics…what is there not to love?

A little 411 for those out of the loop: TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE centers on Lara Jean Covey, a teen who writes secret love letters to her crushes but doesn’t send them. Until they mysteriously get sent. Among the recipients include the boy-next-door, Josh, who also happens to be her sister’s boyfriend and Peter Kavinsky, the most popular guy in school.

Ok. So I am a complete sucker for the “childhood friends to lovers” trope. I will read and watch  everything and anything that includes this plot line. When it comes to love triangles, I rarely side with the wildcard or bad boy/girl. I am almost always exclusively on Team Good Girl/Guy or Team Best Friend. (See my love for Dawson Leery and Jem Carstairs) And I will admit to starting this series completely on Team Josh. Even midway through the first book I was still firmly Team Josh. But then something wonderfully unexpected happened to make me switch sides. And that wonderful thing is Peter Kavinsky.

Oh Peter. Peter K. P. Kavinsky. You perfect human being.

I love me some angst and heartache so book two and three both made me cry. And Netflix, if you don’t pick up the rest of the series, I will storm your headquarters…or write some very impassioned tweets. Ok, maybe I’ll just shake my fists.

<—— LOOK AT THOSE CUTIES. I NEED THEIR ENTIRE LOVE STORY, PLEASE.

Minor spoilers below for the movie 🙂

But this film? Five sugary sweet stars. Lana Condor. Your career better blow up after this. She is the absolute perfect Lara Jean and was so damn endearing the entire film. In fact, all of the casting in this movie was SPOT. ON. I loved Kitty. I loved Margot. I loved that John Corbett was the dad. And, of course, Noah Centineo as Peter K made my entire year.

As is typical of most book to movie adaptations, it doesn’t precisely follow the narrative but does a pretty damn good job. The most striking difference to me, was the almost complete elimination of love triangle element—but it didn’t bother me a bit. And I LOVE love triangles.

I’m going to jump on the bandwagon with all the Asian Americans who are teary over the representation. One of my favorite new authors, Akemi Dawn Bowman, said this on Twitter recently about POC’s in lit: “They deserve a chance to learn, ON THE PAGE, that they are worthy of being the love interest. That being a person of color does not make them less desirable or beautiful or WHOLE than the people who get to be love interests over and over and over again.” And I felt this down to my core.

Jenny Han, thank you for not letting production companies whitewash Lara Jean and the Song sisters. Thank you for showing the industry that a young, Asian woman can be the focus of a successful film. Seeing this movie as a teenager would’ve meant the world to me—and it still means a lot at 28. Along with the recent release of CRAZY RICH ASIANS, I hope this trend only continues an upward trend.

If you haven’t read these books, they are super quick, adorable reads that will warm your heart. If you have access to Netflix, start streaming/downloading now. I’ve watched the movie three times now and my heart is so full.

REVIEW: The War Outside, Monica Hesse (September 25, 2018)

One of my bookish goals for 2018 was to read more historical fiction—a genre I typically do not pick up. And while 12 of my 272 books read have been historical fiction, I’ve generally been in a state of meh about them. When I read the premise for THE WAR OUTSIDE, I was about 75 percent sure I would enjoy it. I did not think it would knock me off my feet with its lyrical brilliance, vivid storyline, and heart wrenching ending.

Let’s just say, if all historical fiction was like this book, it’d be my most-read genre.


The 411: Welcome to Crystal City, Texas, where supposed “enemies” of the U.S. government are kept in an isolated commune. This particular internment camp houses both German and Japanese families—the only one of its kind. And our two protagonists come from both sides:

For 17-year-old Haruko, arrival in Crystal City is the chance to reunite her mother and sister with her father, who was placed there after being accused suspicious activity at work. German-American Margot and her family originally settled in Iowa (holla!) but were sent to Texas after her father attends a meeting for the American Nazi party, seemingly under completely innocent motives. These two would have no reason to interact, let alone get along. Despite the immense odds and the war outside, Margot and Haruko form an inseparable bond that changes the course of their lives.


The setting is World War II, but this story felt entirely too real. You can’t help but make connections with today’s current political climate. I apologize if this feels too partisan, but there a few things that really stuck out to me:

(Note, these quotations come from an uncorrected proof and may be changed for publication.)

In regards to immigration, this quote in particular broke my heart:

“We decided we would come here and we would learn how many original colonies there were, and who wrote the Declaration of Independence. And for what? So they could decide we would never be American enough for them, and put us in here?”

After the 2016 election, John Oliver begged on his show, Last Week Tonight, to keep reminding ourselves that “this is not normal.” Because for those of us who are not currently or have the potential to be affected by this administration, it would be very easy to stop caring. If you haven’t watched that episode, it’s brilliant and I highly recommend, and this quote from Ken, Haruko’s brother, made me think of his words immediately,

“I don’t want you to ever forget where you are. You are a prisoner here. I don’t care if you have a new friend, or if there’s a school newspaper, of if there are books in the library, or if there are community picnics. Or if there’s a football team everyone comes out to cheer for. At the end of the day you’re a prisoner in the only way that matters. If our family wanted to leave they wouldn’t let you.”

Now let’s get to the friendship between Haruko and Margot: it’s beautiful. Their friendship is deep, transcends cultural barriers, and does not define their relationship along platonic or romantic lines. I know that this kind of storytelling is infuriating for some, but I always enjoy it when a writer lets a bond speak for itself without definition. My personal interpretation is that their relationship had romantic undertones in the small (and big) ways they defended each other, talked about the other, and in those rare little confessions of how they were feeling.

I wish I could speak about the ending because it also made my poor little heart burst. It didn’t so much as make my jaw drop, but restore some of my faith in the human race. I’m very picky with my five star ratings and just can’t do it for this one but it’s so dang close. Literally like a 4.95.


MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰.95
RECOMMENDED READING: The Bear & the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden


Thank you to The Novl/LBYR for my galley, which I received as part of the Novl Book Squad in exchange for an honest review. THE WAR OUTSIDE is available September 25, 2018.