To All the Boys I've Loved Before

by Jenny Han

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Lara Jean clearly likes the idea of being in love, but is less enchanted by taking actionable steps toward finding it. This is symbolized most clearly in the love letters that Lara Jean writes and then stows away in her mother’s hat box. The letters express her affection—even from minuscule, tweenage interactions—yet simultaneously keep her emotions locked up. Until Kitty sends them, they have not seen the light of day. This is ironic because Lara Jean’s purpose in writing her love letters is to express her emotions in something outside of herself. She ends up bottling her feeling elsewhere instead of communicating with those around her. It is important, too, that Lara Jean keeps them in her mother’s hat box for safekeeping. It is as if the pain of losing her mother at a young age has kept her from easily seeking new connections. She keeps her feelings literally compartmentalized, making it clear that the next step to finding love still feels too daunting for her. 

The novel teaches readers about romance in general, especially in the way that it comes into our lives. Specifically, it demonstrates how those closest to us sometimes know us better than we know ourselves. For this reason, Kitty's ploy to send her sister's letters to various young men proves to be a fruitful enterprise (even if she did it to cover up her own crush on Josh). What’s more, the novel reaffirms that love requires a certain vulnerability. It is clear from the beginning of the story that Lara Jean is not uninterested in love, but incapable of it until she is willing to make herself vulnerable (or rather, is forced into a vulnerable position by her sister). The story seems to be suggesting that, even if it’s scary at first, sometimes a push into the unknown is absolutely necessary to experience the benefits of life. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before reminds readers that just because vulnerability is scary or unfamiliar does not mean it isn’t worth it. 

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before also repeatedly emphasizes that people are often much more complex than they seem. Peter, for example, seems to represent the classic suave, popular boy in high school. It is easy to think he would be inconsiderate, cocky, and perhaps even a bit mean. But this is not the case: he turns out to be sensitive, kind, and more insecure than he initially comes off as. This makes him a surprisingly good match for Lara Jean. Take Lara Jean’s best friend Chris as another example of this. She is the polar opposite of Lara Jean; she is outgoing, adventurous, and takes more risks than her friend. Yet, she values and supports Lara Jean when she starts seeing Peter. Genevieve, too, is more than just a mean girl who is jealous of Lara Jean. There is a reason she behaves the way she does beyond her popularity status. These characters are more dynamic than initially given credit for. This comes across as deliberate on Han’s behalf.

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