Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.
But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.
When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?
I knew, the first time this book made me cry, that this would be best installment in the trilogy. By the end, I was dead-certain: Always and Forever, Lara Jean was my favourite and, I’d wager to argue, the best book in the trilogy. I loved it immensely.
I adored the first two books of the series; I loved To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before because I found a family that looked like mine, and I loved P.S. I Still Love You for the tender moments between sisters and father and daughter. Always and Forever, Lara Jean, though, felt like a category of its own: magical from start to finish; a whirlwind of emotion that made me laugh and cry and worry; a love story that was not only unforgettable but one that had grown with each book; and watching Lara Jean grow in the smallest and subtlest of ways.
Set in senior year, a chapter is coming to an end for Lara Jean. She’s worried about which colleges she’ll be getting into, she’s thinking where she is and will be in the future, her family is growing a little bigger, and, of course, and she has Peter. (But, with everyone telling her to not be the girl that goes to college with a boyfriend, for how long?) Change and the foreboding of change is a central theme in Always and Forever, Lara Jean, and Han does this wonderfully. For a lot of us, change is as mundane as moving away, going on new adventures, leaving the people we love behind and the places we grew up in, and a series of last’s. More so, the impact of change may seem invisible to others, but inside, change is as powerful as the shifting of tectonic plates. Reading this, I wondered what it would have been like if I had this book when I was leaving high school. I feel like I would have been less afraid of the future.
When I’m old and gray, I will look back on this night, and I will remember it just as it was.
We’re still here. It’s not the future yet.
One of the things that I had always loved when I read the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before books was Lara Jean’s family. As in, I think they would probably be my favourite fictional family of all time. Of course, I love Lara Jean, but one of my favourite characters is Kitty, Lara Jean’s younger sister. And perhaps I say that with a bit of bias, because Kitty reminds me so much of my younger sister. Kitty and my younger sister are stubborn, endearingly annoying (as in, my sister thrives from annoying the bejesus out of me), ask the most blunt questions — just everything about the two are so similar, it’s uncanny. (I read bits and pieces of Kitty’s dialogue to my sister and she cackled in a, ‘that’s so me’ sort of way.) Moreover, if there’s a character I love more than all of them, it might be Mr. Covey, Lara Jean’s dad. He’s so utterly adorable, but he does his best for his family by ensuring that the Song sisters remain connected to their Korean heritage, cares about what they think and have to say, and, best of all, in this book he finds love – but I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.
Although the romance wasn’t, to me, a particularly salient aspect of the first two books (I was more interested in Lara Jean’s growth as a character), I adored the romance in Always and Forever, Lara Jean. I’m not a big reader of romance, but every once in awhile, I get the pleasure of reading a romance that makes me truly see that life and love are beautiful. And heck, Always and Forever, Lara Jean made me believe that. There were some truly pure and wonderful moments that were adorable and sweet, but they were balanced with moments that made my stomach sink. Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship isn’t all smooth-sailing in this book, the obstacles, doubts, and struggles they face are so real and valid. I remember asking myself the same questions that Lara Jean asks herself – what do you choose and how do you choose?
I guess that’s part of growing up, too–saying goodbye to the things you used to love.
Most importantly though, Always and Forever, Lara Jean was the ending that fans of the readers deserved. I liked P.S. I Still Love You, but I felt the ending too rushed and not satisfying. Always and Forever, Lara Jean, in contrast, was a perfect ending. It was the sort of ending that fills the reader with hope. Lara Jean will definitely go through new challenges and new changes in the future, but ending it at her senior year, with so much ahead of her and behind her, felt perfect. All in all, I am thankful for this series, thankful for Han for writing this last book for us, thankful for Lara Jean. A stunning book.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
I wrote this on my Goodreads preliminary review; I didn’t want to incorporate it into my main review, so here it is:
TL;DR: I address the common criticism that the narrative voice is ‘childish’ and a product of poor writing, and argue that the narrative voice is written as ‘childish’ for a reason.
Lara Jean is one of the few characters that I really relate to on a deep and emotional level. And a big reason why – not despite – is her narrative voice. People have called her voice immature, whiny, childish – and if that impedes your enjoyment of the overall book, then that’s fair enough! But, at the same time, I want to implore people to consider that her narrative style and that her ‘childish’ narrative is actually deliberate, and not poor writing in the slightest.
Because some teens will sound like Lara Jean. People are complex and do not conform to rigid ideas of how people or teens ought to act. (Also, consider how your ideas may be a little Eurocentric?) Not all teenagers are mature and have complex political, social, moral, etc. ideologies, nor do they have to be. Saying that teens haven’t grown up is not thoughtful critique. (Heck, have you heard how some adults talk?)
I called (and still do) my father ‘daddy’. As a teen, I was innocent and childish in the way I thought and spoke and perceived things, and I was naive. People grow at different paces in their lives. For me, I “grew up” in university; not high school. I was sheltered in high school by my family and peers (being short makes people think you’re younger and more innocent than you actually are, and so they treat you as such; and that GETS to you).
Lara Jean was me as a teenager, and I am certain that Lara Jean was others as teenagers today or yesterday.
You do not have to like this book or this series. It’s okay if this series is not for you. But consider why it may be for others.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Last book of the series; about a girl who is in her last year of high school and the new challenges and changes that await her.
Genre: Young adult, romance, contemporary, coming-of-age.
Recommended? A million times yes, but only if you liked the first two books.
Possible trigger warnings: ableist language, suicide joke (called out)
- Have you read the first two books of the series? What did you think of them?
- Have you read Always and Forever, Lara Jean? What were your thoughts?
- I think writing a trilogy that readers can be happy with is a big task. What was the best series finale that you have read?