This review will contain some spoilers for the book. Read at your own discretion. Also… there will be ranting.
The second book in Jenny Han’s bestselling series takes place directly after the events of the first novel, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, where Lara Jean has finally made her choice between two boys. This book is essentially the course of her new found romance and first official relationship.
I’m going to be very honest in this review with my reactions and thoughts in regards to how everything happened. It left me with a lot of feelings and most of them are decidedly not great. Please note that my feelings for this book are about the book only and do not reflect on any opinions about the author. These thoughts are also entirely of my own mind and aren’t meant to offend anyone out there; they are subjective to me, an individual reader.
Okay, with that out of the way… what the colossal fuck, Lara Jean Song Covey? I want to grab you by the shoulders and shake you so fucking hard… I just can’t even.
When the book started, I had some high expectations for it because the initial set-up was quite fascinating, and it left me believing that this book was going to have a few extra layers of depth to it that I felt the first instalment lacked. For example, within the first 50 pages of the book [SPOILER:] what appears to be a sex-video of Lara Jean and her boy-choice has been leaked via an anonymous Instagram account. [SPOILER END!] This brings up the concept of how society is extremely sexist and enabling when it comes to sexual relationships that females have versus the ones that males have; particularly how men are free to have sex with whomever they want, how ever much they want without any stigmas affecting their reputation. But if a woman does the same, then she’s labelled for life as a “whore” or a “slut” or a lady of “loose moral character.”
But then her boyfriend “takes care of it” and the topic seems to be dropped. I hated this. This is a very serious notion, especially in the real world today, and it would have been an amazing place to really examine this anti-feminist issue. It’s a subject that needs more discussion and education, especially for our teenage girls. This book with this story would have been an extremely accessible means of doing that. Putting that aside for a second, I also felt angered by how blasé Lara Jean is about the whole thing. She’s perfectly fine letting someone else take care of this for her? Hell, she wouldn’t even have realised how big of a mess this was if her sister, Margot, didn’t point it out to her. Come on, Lara Jean, fricking think. She just defaults to relying on her very unreliable boyfriend. Very much like the first book, who needs female empowerment when there’s a pretty little boy around to “save the day,” right?
All of that really only fills about the first one-fourth to one-third of the book. I think the biggest issue that I had with this novel is how it promotes problematic relationships. I don’t think that was the intention of the story being told, and I may very well be completely alone in the cold, white snow with my opinion here, but that is what resonated the loudest for me as I approached the last few pages. It started with a soft hum and then became quite blaring in my ears after I closed the book and placed it onto my desk.
[SPOILER-ESQUE RANTING, UP AHEAD!]
Lara Jean is in relationship with a boy who continues to lie to her, knowing how much it’s hurting his girlfriend. He does it without regret or hesitation in that moment. Then when he’s confronted by Lara Jean about his blatant dishonesty, he ends up manipulating the entire situation to the point where Lara Jean is the one apologising instead. He always making her out to be the villain even though he’s the one being an asshole. Even after she dumps him for the way he treats her, he still manipulates her and makes her feel guilty for trying to move on with a guy who is SO MUCH better than he is.
These are signs of a young man who will be abusive and possessive. It’s a sign that the relationship is NOT HEALTHY and that HE’S NOT A GOOD GUY. I’ll admit. They’re all a bunch of teenagers and there’s a lot of trial-and-error that goes into educating yourself about relationships at such an age. You make mistakes, you learn, YOU GROW UP! But when you already know that a guy has hurt you, and when you already have trust issues with said guy, which causes insecurities you’ve never had or don’t need exasperated, don’t fucking go back to le-douchey-guy.
In the final chapters of the book, Lara Jean realises how much she still has feelings for her boyfriend, and how she really isn’t ready to give up on their relationship. While I can understand that, I wholeheartedly disagree with her decision. Many times after their break-up, Lara Jean has had monologues, or even chats with other characters, where she describes how she felt like a “second choice” because her boyfriend never put her first. He always mistreated her in one form or another, and he fucking lied to her repeatedly.
The boy admitted that he lied because he felt she wouldn’t understand his position, and then proceeded to manipulate her again into making her apologise for feeling the way she did that led to their inevitable break-up. Saying things like, “I give you my heart to break or do whatever you want with” is not romantic. It’s him playing the victim while giving himself a reason to keep being a bastard.
When you have profound feelings for someone, it’s natural to ache in the wake of their loss or absence, but it’s not justification for putting your mind and heart through more pain. It’s not a reason to devalue yourself or throw away your self-worth for someone who has never shown you respect to begin with. This distinct portion of the book would’ve been a superb plot point to illustrate some self-growth from Lara Jean; to really indicate how much all of these experiences have enlightened her as a woman as well as a teenager. But it never happens and she never exhibits any realm of growth whatsoever. I can’t get on board with it, and ultimately it made me dislike the book rather passionately.
While I found Lara Jean to be very mildly irritating in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I found her entirely intolerable and unrelatable in P.S. I Still Love You. I can’t stand characters who are so bloody willing and accepting of being called out as the “bitch” or “villain” or other colourfully described “wrongdoer” for simply standing up for themselves, or her beliefs. It’s just not okay. Her younger sister, Kitty, as more of a spine and a stronger sense of how the world works than she does. It’s a fucking shame.
I know that there is one more book left in the series, Always and Forever, Lara Jean, and there’s a HUGE possibility (I’m hoping) that the occurrences within the 337 pages of this novel are some sort of set-up for what’s to come in the final instalment. I’m not closed-minded to that, trust me. Nevertheless, I still did not find this book to be pleasant at all. There was huge lack of character growth, the invalidation of female independence and empowerment, and a fetishisation of emotionally abusive relationships and friendships.
Overall, I don’t recommend this book. The first one was good. The second one was… No. Hopefully the third one will somehow round it all off, and this will all just be some kind of life lesson for Ms. Lara Jean Song Covey.
2 cupcakes outta 5.