Regrettably, I had two DNFs in a row this week, and a few other books I'm not terribly excited about. So I'll go ahead and post my first review for a book I actually finished two weeks ago, in one day.
Jenny Han is an author that feels a bit like a landmine to me. On the one hand, she's awesome at writing characters I care about, and I think she has the hallmark of a great contemporary writer, which every great contemporary writer needs--being able to capture small slices that feel so true to life, the equivalent of world-building in fantasy. On the other hand, I don't know if I quite trust her as an author the way I do, for example, Shannon Hale. I've read The Summer I Turned Pretty and Han's co-written Burn for Burn trilogy, in addition to To All the Boys I've Loved Before, which precedes this book. In all of those books (except The Summer I Turned Pretty, which I just didn't really like), I was totally loving it until the ending.
Something similar happened here.
For the record, I'm normally the kind of reader that deliberately tries not to finish a book too quickly--and all the more the more I like it, because I'm a really fast reader and I don't want things to zip by if I really like them. Still, I read this in one day.
This book is chock-full of those real moments and characters and relationships that you love: Lara Jean's relationship with her dad and each of her sisters; Lara Jean's rosy outlook and being in love with love, and wanting to be easygoing but still actually being sensitive and insecure and yes, occasionally jealous. Her love for baking! Mrs. Rothschild and Kitty's matchmaking. The Assassins game. Lara Jean's volunteering at Belleview--which totally fits in with her character, but also adds a lot of excitement and has a very specific purpose for the plot.
To my disappointment, this book opens just about where To All the Boys I've Loved Before left off, which means that the scandal at the end of that book continues in this one. It makes sense that Han dealt with it, and especially considered the ramifications of Peter not being able to fully protect Lara Jean, but there were times when I thought the sex-positive agenda was nearly overpowering the story and the characters. This probably won't bother (or even register for) most other readers as much as it did for me, though.
Still, I laughed and smiled a lot throughout the book--but I'll admit that I hurt a lot, too, because again, Han has written characters you can't help but fall in love with, and she's not gentle: she puts you through the entire emotional spectrum.
How was the romance? I liked it for the most part, actually. Given the blurbs about the book, I knew John was going to come into the story, and my initial reaction was GO AWAY! But then he appeared, and I totally fell in love with him, to the point where I wanted him in the story more than he actually was, and he really did win me over completely. At first I felt tortured because of course I still like Peter, but after thinking on this book a few days (and yes, it's the kind that stays with you), I have to say I'm Team John all the way.
But the worst part is, I had read this book thinking that this was the second book in a trilogy, and that softened the ending for me. Since Han said this is only a duology, though, I may have to reread it and reevaluate my rating based on the ending. The ending here was still a little rough, and Han's endings have been notoriously unsatisfying to me. But I love the characters.
For the most part, I think readers who loved the first book will love this one. Still has the great characters, writing, and romance, but with the complicating factor of a love triangle. Han navigates it with appreciable deftness, though.