Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Published: May 2017
Genre: young adult, contemporary
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?
It’s senior year, and Lara Jean is having a wonderful time with Peter, her friends, and her family. She’s nostalgic and excited for the future all at once, which leads to a lot of stress baking to perfect her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Will she get into her dream school? How will she and Peter continue their relationship in college? How will she cope being away from home for college? As change trickles in one after another, creating rocking waves in previously calm waters, Lara Jean must decide what she wants to do and who she wants to be in this first step of adulthood.
What a great conclusion to a beautiful contemporary trilogy about sisterhood and growing up. When Jenny Han announced writing a third book for her intended duology, I admit I was a little worried. I felt Lara Jean’s story ended in a good place in the second book. But Han was right: Lara Jean had more to tell, more experiences to share, and this book tied everything back full circle. Thanks, Han!
This trilogy speaks to me on so many levels. Lara Jean is such a crafty, nostalgic, smart, quiet, good, loving girl. She likes the fine things in life, expresses her emotions through art and baking, and enjoys frank conversations with her sisters Margot and Kitty. In many ways, Han and Dessen (to toss in another contemporary classic) create characters that speak to me now as an adult and who I was as a teen. I especially appreciate the very sisterly, clean but informative discussions about love, heartbreak, sex, periods, the whole gambit.
Though Lara Jean isn’t dealing with the sort of drama that plagued her in the last book (and boy, social media can really be a burden for teens today), she does need to think about life as an adult away from home. She will have so many freedoms and responsibilities, making her own rules based on her wishes and values. Choosing a college is one of them, especially if the college choice may or may not be influenced by her love for her devoted boyfriend. So many college-bound seniors battle between wanting to stay together and choose the same college, when the right thing is to choose the college best suited for one’s future and career. It’s a tough place to be in, and Lara Jean is facing those growing pains head on.
The Song sisters are experiencing growing pains as well. Margot continues to flourish studying abroad, but it’s jolting to come home to several changes, including a new stepmother. Lara Jean wants to keep the peace, while at the same time allow the wedding to distract her from bigger decisions in her life. She can be quite pushy and teasing without realizing, and others notice. Kitty, who barely remembers their mother, is thrilled to have a proper mother figure in her life, though there’s concern she will “forget” her Korean culture. The bond between these three is impenetrable, and they will always find home base with one another.
I’m not here for the romance. I’m here for the sisters. I’m here to watch Lara Jean come of age and navigate this brave new world all on her own. I’m here to see her come full circle and start another chapter in her life. It all began when her sister left for college and she felt unmoored by the loss — now it’s her turn to leave for college. And I am pleased to see what she decided to do with her life!
Thank you, Jenny Han, for bringing these wonderful sisters, especially Lara Jean, to life!
This qualifies as book 8 of 12 in the Rock My TBR challenge.