Backlist Bonus: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

15749186by Jenny Han
YA Contemporary
2 of 5 stars
Book 1 of a duology

This is a cute premise, and certain parts felt very Boy Meets World to me, but overall it’s probably not worth the time if you have a long to-read list. The characters are flat and the plot barely involves the letters, or much of anything else, unfortunately. It has a middle grade voice trying to convince you Lara Jean is 16 and not 11. It’s obvious from page 30 who sent the letters, but Lara Jean literally never wonders how they got out there, and is nonchalant about how it screwed with her life once she does find out at the very end. Actually, she never sticks up for herself, come to think of it.

There’s so much to work with here, and I feel like the author barely scratched the surface of it. Lara Jean is half-Korean in a white school. She could have had actual relationships with her older and younger sister. She could have a real friendship with her only female “friend” Chris (who is portrayed as a “slut,” so I’m not sure how they stayed friends for long since they have little in common, but that’s a separate issue).

If you pretend Lara Jean is younger, this could be a good summer read for a day or two. Since there is one sequel planned I will probably check it out this summer just to see if Lara Jean or any of the other characters experience a significant character arc. I have a feeling I’ll be less disappointed now that I know what to expect (i.e. a middle-grade novel, not YA). I happen to love the cover art for both books, for whatever that’s worth.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – Hadley Sullivan meets Oliver (a Brit) on her flight to England for her father’s second wedding to a woman she’s never met. The story follows twenty-four hours in Hadley’s life that might change her future.
  • Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan – Told through dual narration, Nick and Norah meet at a chance concert and spend a crazy twenty-four hours together in New York City trying to find their favorite band’s secret show, and falling in love along the way.

Written in Red

15711341by Anne Bishop
Fiction/Paranormal fantasy
3 of 5 stars

This is a frustrating book on several levels. The main issue for me is the fact that the world and characters are interesting but they never DO anything. 80% of this book is Meg sorting the mail, or Simon having meetings and doing paperwork to prove he’s running a business. I guess if the author never worked in an office she’d think sorting mail is fascinating, but it isn’t. The world also doesn’t provide concrete details outside of the mail room….the rudimentary map has a note saying the “geographically challenged author only included the bits needed for the story” and this becomes painfully obvious. We are given no idea of the state of Thaisia (America, I think?) or the surrounding countries/continents named, or how anything is working or even how far apart referenced cities are. I wanted so badly to know more or to have the characters do SOMEthing but it never happened.

To go along with this, many characters reason away strange or bad decisions with a reiteration of “we do this to keep the Others from eating us” and “we do this because we want stuff from Humans” but the whole balance of government and economics is nonsensical and flimsy. I don’t encounter truly dumb characters very often, but there are several in this story and it’s bad enough to be distracting. The plot moves at a glacial pace and the only event happens in the last 80 pages or so – and that only because of horribly bad decisions. “He needed to figure out what was wrong about this [obvious suspicious activity] before something bad happened.” I wish that was more of an exaggeration.

This doesn’t touch on other issues that can problematic for readers – cutting yourself portrayed as useful/pleasurable/just an addiction, and misogyny between ALL male and female characters (literally “If you don’t do what I say Meg, I will eat you! Stupid female!”). Women are in this story to be mysterious/dumb and make bad decisions that they later endure harsh punishment or lectures for. Also something I don’t notice often in stories but here it’s hard to miss. Stranger still that it’s written by a woman…

This is a series of 5 books but I don’t think I’ll be hanging around for the rest of it. I went to a signing by Bishop where she read an excerpt of Vision in Silver and yep, we are still sorting mail and dealing with the same issues from the first one. No thank you. The characters and concept (and nice cover art) are the only reason I give it 3 stars, but I’m being generous.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Written in Red is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Apparently Bishop and Patricia Briggs write in the same vein and have a lot of books out, so if none of this put you off, there is plenty more out there!
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black features vampires living among us with more action and suspense.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor also has magical beings sharing our space with zero mail sorting. See my review here.
  • If mysterious worlds don’t bother you then try Neil Gaiman or Diana Wynne Jones – they know how to do it in such a way that you won’t be annoyed.

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