Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Published by Simon & Schuster on May 2, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
“Never say no when you really want to say yes.”
The conclusion to the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series, Always and Forever, Lara Jean captivated me just as much as the books before it.
As I’ve mentioned in both of my reviews for the first two books, I’ve absolutely been enamored with this series since the movie was released on Netflix. It took me a long time to come around to actually reading the books like I had been wanting to, but these were such quick and fun reads that I wonder why I ever dragged my feet in the first place.
I always get sad and nostalgic at the end of a series. By the last book I’m always fully immersed in the world it’s set in and I find it hard to leave it completely. A piece of me always stays behind. This time, I’m leaving behind a larger piece of me.
Contemporaries have a way of being relatable in ways that a fantasy or sci-fi book isn’t. Most genres have characters that are relatable, but the events in a contemporary are much easier to connect to than connecting to someone who is an assassin or prisoner to complete a mission. That’s one of the reasons I always come back to contemporaries when I feel tired or in a reading slump. They’re easy for me. They’re like going home. Of course it has to be a good story with real characters and To All the Boys checked everything off my list. Lara Jean was so relatable and at the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I was as much like her as I thought. By the end of this book, I knew we had a lot in common. So saying goodbye to her and her story, is hard. I’ll have to just wait for the next movie before I can completely feel done.
If you haven’t read the third book or any of the others, stop now and go read them. I have review for the first two here and here, respectively. I’ll be talking about some spoilers and some not, so stick around if you have read the final book!
When I picked up this book, I had no idea it was going to jump so far in the future. I just assumed that it would pick up where we left off with Peter and Lara Jean trying to figure out how to be a real, official couple now that they had some trials and tribulations. Though, the further I got the less it made sense that she would pick up immediately and I understood why she jumped ahead. If the third book was another Peter-and-Lara-Jean trying it again story it wouldn’t have been good. Of course it was about them trying everything out, but it was all deeper and the stakes were higher.
Lara Jean is in her final semester of high school and she has one hope and it’s to go to UVA with Peter. Peter is already going there on a lacrosse scholarship and it makes sense for her to go there. In this book we saw a lot less of their relationship, but more how Lara Jean was getting used to the idea of leaving home and going to college. She’s such a homebody (no judgement, I am too) and she struggled with the idea of going somewhere else that wasn’t 15 minutes away. Of course, we later find out she wasn’t accepted to UVA and now she has to figure out how she’s going to handle long-distance with Peter and not being home for everything.
I wanted Lara Jean to transfer to UVA really bad because I was dead set on the idea that I did not make it through three books for them to just part ways at college. I couldn’t fathom the idea of an ending like that. It would’ve destroyed me to some extent, of that I’m sure. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. Though it was close a couple times and I was really, really, really worried.
While in the second book, I thought we got to see how the three sisters worked together, we definitely saw more of that this time around. Instead, this time it wasn’t all smiles and joy. It was tougher. Especially since Dr. Covey was marrying Ms. Rothschild. Margot was struggling with it and Kitty was all for it and Lara Jean was there in the middle, happy but worried about Margot.
This book felt more real as Lara Jean kept being pulled farther from the inside of her head and her fantasies. She was grappling with the end of high school and the start of a new chapter. It really took me back to how I felt my senior year of high school, a feeling that I hadn’t realized I completely forgot.
Overall, I was really happy with the ending we were given. The last 30 pages made me really nervous and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be happy, something I don’t particularly like from contemporaries. While contemporaries are realistic, I prefer a happy ending from them. I want something that will give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Thankfully Jenny Han gave that to me.
I absolutely love all of the characters and they’ll continue to hold a special place in my heart. I do wish that Lara Jean and Genevieve could’ve worked everything out, but maybe that was never meant to be. With what few interactions they did have, things seemed to be better but Gen was still Gen.
I definitely recommend the series to anyone who loves a romance with a touch of coming-of-age. I think YA contemporaries like this are good for everyone because it’s a classic storyline that’s hard to hate. I certainly love this one the most. Thankfully, I can relive the story as much as I want on Netflix.