Lara Jean is approaching the end of her senior year. She and Peter are still happily together, and all of her classmates are planning their futures. Lara Jean has dreamed for years about going to the University of Virginia, with its classical architecture and picturesque library. Peter is already headed to UVA after signing with the lacrosse team, and Lara Jean can’t imagine a better future, especially since she’d be only fifteen minutes from home and still watching her little sister Kitty grow up. She does have a few other schools she’s applied to, but in her mind, nothing compares to UVA. Even her best friend Chris is planning on being untraditional and traveling somewhere to work like Costa Rica to explore and enjoy life while she’s young. It seems like everyone has the perfect future planned out, and Lara Jean is anxiously waiting on hers.
She’s also experiencing new changes in the rest of her life. Her father gets engaged to their neighbor and Lara Jean throws herself into wedding planning to keep herself distracted. However, when Lara Jean finally hears from UVA, she hasn’t been accepted and suddenly she doesn’t know where she’s going to go or whether she and Peter can stay together.
It’s our final story about Lara Jean *crying emoji!*. I’m terribly sad about it, but also because I don’t know what Jenny Han is going to write next! I love her books. What I love about this one is how every teen can relate to the feelings of uncertainty about their future–their college plans, their relationships if they decide to move away, the unknown possibilities that could occur. Plus, it all feels very real and heartfelt for Lara Jean and the turmoil she’s in at the end of senior year faced with some big life changes and the unknown. This novel has a lot of great advice for teens approaching this step in life without being about giving college advice. In fact, everyone in Lara Jean’s life sort of teaches her some truths, whether about her relationship, herself, or just good advice for the future.
One of the biggest hurdles in the book (and in the series) is her relationship with Peter. Though she and Peter have been together for quite some time (and gotten back together after the events of the last novel), this new unknown future has affected both of them. Their relationship, while important, may not survive. And Lara Jean’s mother once told her, don’t go to college with a boyfriend because you’ll lose out on a true freshman experience (Articles discussing the case in point: The Guardian, the Independent). When they were both potentially going to UVA, it was easy to see themselves being together, albeit with different lives led at college (lacrosse and fraternity for Peter, friends of her own for Lara Jean and studying at the library and on the grounds). However, Lara Jean’s other choices mean a long-distance relationship for much of the time, even when she is trying to convince herself to transfer to UVA soon after being accepted somewhere else. Plenty of teens have this battle where they know, realistically, their relationship may not survive the stress of being long-distance and/or they might meet someone better suited at college. However, as Lara Jean and Peter discover, it’s not up to others and their opinions. They are the two in the relationship and those decisions are up to them.
The ending was beautiful, and perfectly wraps up the series that began with a love letter by ending with another love letter.
This is also one of the few books out there that has racial diversity of an Asian American family but doesn’t deal with issues or a lens caused by race. It’s normal, and that’s great because just a few years ago, there were not books with racially different characters who didn’t have problems through a racial lens. Yay for #weneeddiversebooks.