Young adult author Jenny Han’s 2014 romance novel To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before officially has a movie adaptation out in the world. As someone who holds my book to movie adaptations to a higher standard than most, let me put my fellow book lovers’ minds at ease – you will adore this movie. And to my movie fans who don’t care to read the book before watching the movie, you will also adore it.
Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song Covey keeps love letters she has written to all the boys she has loved in her life – five in all. When she writes these letters, she pours out her heart, saying all of the things she’s too afraid to say in real life. She addresses the envelopes and then hides them in a hatbox – the letters are meant for her eyes only. Until one day, when all of the letters mysteriously get sent out and Lara Jean now has to face the consequences of her once-imaginary-now-really-complicated love life.
I first read To All The Boys when I was starting college in 2014. I read through it quickly and enjoyed the story, but it was a bit too overhyped at the time and my expectations were super high, so ultimately it was the type of book that I moved on from very quickly. Or so I thought.
Over the years, Lara Jean would come to mind often and the story Jenny Han wrote was so unique and new, that it stuck with me for four years. When I finally reread it for the first time since 2014 on Monday, ahead of the Netflix drop of the movie adaptation, I fell head over heels in love with the story and the characters. I literally whizzed through the book in one sitting. It was funny, emotional, comforting, and cozy. I adored it.
I’ve only read the first book in the trilogy (I plan to remedy this soon), so I can only focus on the similarities and differences between the first book and the movie. So if there are nods to the next two books in the movie, I couldn’t tell you.
The movie as a whole was wonderful.
I know Jenny Han fought with all she could to make sure that Lara Jean would be played by an Asian actress and I can’t tell you how much I love her for that. Lana Condor was the absolute best person to play Lara Jean and she brought her to life perfectly. The fact that we have an Asian actress starring in a teen rom-com makes me want to weep of happiness.
Peter Kavinsky was played by Noah Centineo, and I never pictured Noah as Peter, probably because I’ve only ever seen him in a few episodes of The Fosters, but he absolutely killed it. He brought out the charm, the humor, and the frustration I experienced with book Kavinsky.
The only two characters that sort of fell flat for me as far as the script goes, were Chris (Lara Jean’s best friend, played by Madeleine Arthur) and Margot (Lara Jean’s older sister, played by Janel Parrish). I felt like Chris jumped off the pages in the book, but in the movie she was sort of dull. She did have a few funny lines and visually she looked like Chris, but she didn’t really stand out to me. For Margot, a lot of her story line was changed and at times in the book she acted like a real bitch (in a sisterly way), but in the movie she was kind of too nice? I felt like there wasn’t as much conflict between her and Lara Jean as there was in the book.
Obviously, I understand – probably more than anyone – that not everything can make it into the movie and as it stands, this is an amazing adaptation. The writers and director got the vibe of the book right, tweaked it to make sense visually, and stuck to the basic plot. And it made me feel good and happy and it was what a teen rom-com should be.
I loved the opening of the film – right off the bat you understand what kind of person Lara Jean is. She’s someone who lives in a fantasy world in her head when it comes to love. It was also super appealing visually. Also, Israel Broussard as Josh??? PERFECT. Israel Broussard in suspenders??? PERFECT.
Kitty in the movie (played by Anna Cathcart) was the Kitty I met in the book. She was perfect and hilarious and everything I envisioned. My favorite scenes with her were pretty much every time she interacted with Peter. The two of them are funny in the book, and equally, if not more, funny in the movie.
A scene I loved from the movie that wasn’t in the book was the diner scene where Lara Jean’s dad talks about her mom. It was a sweet and emotional moment that is made even better by Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears For Fears. Whenever a rom–com includes a classic ‘80s song, you can sign me up.
A scene from the book that I really wanted to see brought to life, but wasn’t, was everything having to do with the Christmas Cookie Bonanza. When I think To All The Boys, I think cookies and Lara Jean’s love for baking. We do see Margot baking cookies at one point, but that’s about it. I want Lara Jean and Kitty in their living room, making a list of what to bake, while Peter begs for fruitcake cookies. I want Josh to walk in and be shook by Peter getting in on the Christmas Cookie Bonanza.
Another scene that I really wanted to see was Peter and Lara Jean’s trip to the estate sale. I don’t remember this scene having any major importance to the plot, but it was still a nice and fun moment between the two in the book that I would have loved to have seen brought to life.
Overall, I am extremely satisfied with this adaptation. It was exactly what I pictured in my mind when reading the book, it was cast wonderfully, and cinematically it was beautiful. I enjoyed every minute of it, which I wasn’t expecting. I hope we get a sequel because not only do I want to see this story continue, but I also need to see Israel Broussard’s face more.