Review by Vân Nguyễn Quỳnh-Hương
Have you been searching for a multicultural narrative that organically includes the protagonist’s identity without centering around it? To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a romance between a biracial teenager named Lara Jean (her late mother was Korean) and a charming heartthrob named Peter is the book for you. The story does a great job depicting intimate moments that emphasize Lara Jean’s unique position. For example, she frets during Halloween, worried that wearing a wig will make classmates assume she dressed up as an anime character. Her dad cooks Korean food to help his daughters feel connected to their mother’s heritage. And Han dresses Lara Jean in a hanbok during New Year’s, but doesn’t feel the need to explain the dress or the rituals that take place. Doing so illustrates how Han does not feel pressured to write for a White audience. What is most marvelous, however, is how Lara Jean’s Korean heritage is only a fraction of who she is as a person. The story explores not only her Korean identity, but also her growth as a person, her relationships with her loved ones, and her obsession with baking. Han succeeds in creating a multicultural romance that normalizes and celebrates Korean culture and most importantly, has you rooting for Lara Jean’s love story. And she does it all with literary style and expert craftsmanship; her prose is as sweet as Lara Jean’s baked goodies.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han. (2014). Simon & Schuster, 355 pages.
Vân Nguyễn Quỳnh-Hương is pursuing her M.Ed. in English Education, loves jigsaw and crossword puzzles, watches mukbang videos in her downtime, and is passionate about anti-oppressive teaching.