To All the Boys I've Loved Before

by Jenny Han

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Some important quotes from To All The Boys I've Loved Before are:

We tease Daddy and say how lucky he is that we’re all so good, but the truth is, we’re the lucky ones. He’s a really good dad. And he tries hard. He doesn’t always understand us, but he tries, and that’s the important thing.

The above quote encapsulates the relationship between the Song girls and their widower father. There is a mutual give-and-take between Dr. Covey and his daughters. It is Dr. Covey's conscientious efforts that inspire gratitude in his daughters. In the story, both Dr. Covey and Margot are emotional anchor points for Lara Jean, as the following quote demonstrates.

All of a sudden I feel panicky and it’s hard to breathe and I couldn’t care less about cherry chocolate-chunk custard. I can’t picture Thanksgiving without Margot. I can’t even picture next Monday without her. I know most sisters don’t get along, but I’m closer to Margot than I am to anybody in the world. How can we be the Song girls without Margot?

When Margot leaves for Scotland, Lara Jean feels lost. To Lara Jean, Margot is the quintessential mother figure. It was Margot who took charge after finding their mother, Evie Song, dead. According to Lara Jean, Margot called 911 and Dr. Covey and had tasked Lara Jean with watching three-year-old Kitty after discovering their mother's body. In all, Lara Jean looks up to Margot, and this quote highlights her sense of loss after Margot leaves for Scotland.

It is the splintering of the family that also sets Lara Jean on a course of discovering her true self. In Margot's absence, she begins to explore her feelings for boys and live life on her own terms. Lara Jean experiences the important process of differentiating herself from Margot and her past. Instead of relying on childhood memories to define her present, Lara Jean begins to discover her own unique voice and worldview.

When my dad has a day off, he cooks Korean food. It’s not exactly authentic, and sometimes he just goes to the Korean market and buys ready-made side dishes and marinated meat, but sometimes he’ll call our grandma for a recipe and he’ll try. That’s the thing: Daddy tries. He doesn’t say so, but I know it’s because he doesn’t want us to lose our connection to our Korean side, and food is the only way he knows how to contribute. After Mommy died, he used to try to make us have play dates with other Korean kids, but it always felt awkward and forced.

The above quote highlights one of the novel's main themes: self-identity, and the factors that define it. Lara Jean and her sisters share a dual cultural heritage. They are both Korean and American. After Evie Song's death, Dr. Covey faces challenges in helping his daughters preserve their Korean identity.

For her part, Lara Jean maintains that the play dates "always felt awkward and forced." Her feelings highlight the complexity of ethnic identification. The question begs to be asked: who decides what race is? Are shared values, personal preferences, and genetic predilections important factors in defining self-identity?

Josh has some sixth sense of when my dad’s cooking Korean food, because he’ll come sniffing around right when we’re sitting down to eat. He loves Korean food. When my grandma comes to visit, he won’t leave her side. He’ll even watch Korean dramas with her. She cuts him pieces of apple and peels clementines for him like he’s a baby.

In the above quote, Josh (Margot's former boyfriend) continues to grace the Covey family home with his presence. His fascination with all things Korean endears him to Lara Jean's maternal grandmother. Here, the author highlights the inter-generational and intercultural bond between the two.

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