Following the events of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean has discovered she has real feelings for Peter after their pretended romance, and they get back together. However, their new relationship is overshadowed by an unknown bully, who publicly shames Lara Jean as a slut, first online and then to the entire school. Lara Jean believes it is Genevieve, Peter’s ex-girlfriend, having heard her slandering Lara Jean by saying she (LJ) and Peter had sex in the hot tub on a school ski trip. Now, there is a secret video of the hot tub makeout and it keeps cropping up everywhere. Peter tries to defend her, but he comes off looking romantic and like a typical playboy while Lara Jean’s good reputation is in shambles. Despite this setback, they try to salvage their relationship, but the pressures, both from Peter’s blindness for Genevieve, whom Lara Jean believes is the bully, and the bullying and fallout from the videos, put strain on their brief moments of happiness together. Lara Jean throws herself into baking, helping her dad be ready to date, and volunteering at a nearby retirement home with some older lady friends while Peter plays lacrosse. As Lara Jean talks with one of the older ladies, Stormy, she longs for a day when dating was simpler, and Stormy insistently keeps trying to set her up with her grandson. Out of the blue, Lara Jean receives a letter in the mail, a reply to one she sent John Ambrose McClaren months earlier. In writing back, she gains an old friend and reminisces about their childhood, one that included Peter and Genevieve and John and was a lot simpler. Back then, Peter and John were best friends, and Lara Jean was constantly being paired up with John for future romance. Now, as circumstances begin putting John McClaren back in her orbit, Lara Jean finds herself falling for another guy, but is it possible to like two guys at once?
I love anything by Jenny Han. She tells romance and childhood memories with such subtlety that you can almost remember your own buried thoughts and feelings from past younger selves. You experience the magic and confusion of love and the vast potential for future possibilities with Lara Jean. Everything seems so real and well-drawn. One of the things that is both hard and realistic is Lara Jean’s experience with slut shaming, one can and does easily happen to teens today. Somehow, though the situation is horrible and could easily harm Lara Jean’s spirit, she is vulnerable but strong and positively shows how one can still be good despite being framed to be bad.
Note: Sexual bullying (but not any active sexuality) and strong language.
Congratulations to Jenny Han! It was just announced yesterday that she won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literarure for YA Lit for P.S. I Still Love You.