Hi! It’s Annie!
It’s probably more than well known on this blog that I am very into romcoms. Everything from cutesy romcom movies, to books, to K-Dramas, are usually right up my alley. So, no, I have no idea how it’s taken me this long to watch or read ‘To All the Boys’. Maybe because it was so hyped up that I was worried I would be disappointed. Maybe it’s because I’m not as much of a huge fan of Noah Centineo as a lot of people seem to be. That’s not at all to say that I dislike him though! But I was absolutely certain that I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of this story for almost no reason at all, and brushed it off for awhile. After people close to me told me several several times that I would probably like it, I decided to kick back after a long day of work and actually watch the movie. And I loved it! It’s adorable and very quickly became a comfort watch for me. I’m so glad that I gave it a shot. So I was very quick to pick up the book afterwards as well, and that was so different from the movie. And in my opinion, it is really not different in a good way. This post will have MASSIVE SPOILERS for both the movie and book versions of this story as well as for the book ‘This Time It’s Real’ by Ann Liang which I felt did a similar plot a bit better. If you haven’t read that book, go ahead and do that! I’m just going to get into it!
There are a lot of differences between the movie and the book, so buckle up. While the essence of the characters are the same, they are all definitely less likable than in the movie. There’s a much bigger disconnect between the three sisters, Peter Kavinsky is less charming and more of a typical jock, and Josh actually attempts to kiss Lara Jean instead of staying loyal to Margot. Kissing the sister of your ex who you still aren’t over is, to put it lightly, very very not cool. That’s actually straight up disgusting. The characters in general don’t seem to be very loyal to each other. Margot is very quick to treat Lara Jean badly when things don’t go her way and vice versa. Lara Jean in the book barely seems to like her best friend and only disagrees with everything she does. The only character who seems to remain just as likable is the Dad. And Peter is absolutely at fault for everyone thinking that Lara Jean and him had sex in the hot tub. Though he isn’t the one to create the rumor, he doesn’t actually do anything to try and stop it. This is actually used as an example of how sex is something that seems to bolster men at the same time it tears down women. And while this is important, Peter doesn’t actually seem to learn his lesson from this. But the main difference between the book and the movie is that the book has no ending. Let me repeat there is no ending here!
When I say there isn’t an ending, I’m not at all saying that it ends on a cliff hanger. There’s no cliff hanger for it to end on. This book is a very typical romcom and it honestly isn’t my favorite that I’ve ever read. It was such a typical rom com, that I didn’t find it to have much new or different in it compared to other stuff that I’ve read. The movie was able to completely embrace the cuteness of the romance and the innocence and reliability of Lara Jean that the book seemed to have a little bit of trouble with. It could very well be that Noah and Lana were able to make it better by bringing their own charisma to the roles. But the book itself felt very much like I was reading story beats without the depth of the actors that I desperately wanted. It almost felt like a joke when I got to the typical beat before the last beat in a romcom and the book just ended. You know that moment when the main character finally discovers that they’re in love with the other character no matter what they’ve done? What if the book just ended after that; how mad would you be? Probably just as angry as I was reading this book. The book has no reconciliation between the characters, there is no communication, no understanding, and definitely no getting together. Let me repeat; they never actually date at any point in this book. There are three books in the series, but that doesn’t justify this book having no ending. If you’re going to create a series of anything, each piece should be able to stand on its own and be good both by itself and within the series. Depriving one piece of an ending to try and get people to buy your next book makes that completely impossible. It also made me way too angry to buy the second book, especially when this one wasn’t my favorite to begin with. One of my absolute favorite scenes from the movie is actually the ending. “You gonna break my heart, Covey?” is one of the most swoon-worthy pieces of the entire movie! Not only that but it completes the first arc of Lara Jean in learning to be more confident in herself and expressing her feelings. Why would you instead put that in a second installment where she goes through a different arc? I think the simple fact that the movie has an ending while the book does not, really makes the movie better than the book.
Everyone loves a good fake dating plot in a romcom; it has to be one of my favorite romance tropes! And ‘This Time It’s Real’ by Ann Liang delivers this in a way that’s a little familiar when you think about ‘To All the Boys’. In ‘This Time It’s Real’ the fake dating plot begins not because of letters that get out, but it still begins because of writing. When Eliza writes a fake story for what’s supposed to be a real-life experience essay and the essay goes viral, she must suddenly figure out how to make her fake boyfriend from the essay come to life. In order to do this she makes an agreement with teenage television actor, Caz, to pretend to date in order to help her situation and keep past controversy about him at bay. This book takes similar issues from ‘To All the Boys’ and really fixes them for me. It makes the characters really relatable and gives them in depth issues. Eliza struggles with trust issues because she feels like people leave her all the time, which is something that any of us could relate to. I hardcore related to that issue! Caz feels as though his family is attempting to control his life. Not only that but the book also has the importance of family and sisterhood while having extreme loyalty and real-feeling conversations. This book has a great message about letting people in because people need people and also about allowing yourself to love. Something ‘To All the Boys’ hints at with Lara Jean being afraid of having something real in case it isn’t like she hopes, but it never really seems to be completely focused on. ‘This Time It’s Real’ has all the depth and cuteness that I wanted from ‘To All the Boys’ but with added bonuses, like the fact that it takes place in another country and incorporates other things that I love, like C-Dramas. And it actually has an ending! Bare minimum folks, but I’m still excited! I understand that ‘To All the Boys’ was necessary because books with Asian leads weren’t common when this book came out and this is something that we still really have to work on. I really respect it for that! I just wish that it was better.
I know I don’t usually go after books as much as I did with this, but reading this book was so frustrating to me. Especially after seeing how good the story could have been in the form of the movie. It felt almost like the author was attempting to force her readers to buy the second book by withholding the ending, and I am absolutely not supportive of that. But while I am definitely saying that this is a case of the movie being better than the book; I’ve never been a person really of the opinion that books are in general better than their movie counterparts. I know that’s really weird for someone who reads so much, but I’m just as much of a fan of movies! For example, I think the LOTR movies are just as good as the books and I think that they take out some of the unneeded description and make the world visually immersive. The Harry Potter movies I like better now because they take out much of JKR’s racist views. The book often has more details, but the movie usually adapts itself well to being a visual form of entertainment. I usually prefer it best when I like the book and the movie just as much as each other. But it really is interesting for me when I find a movie that I love where I genuinely am not a fan of the original source material for just plain not feeling very great to me. I apologize if you love this book, I know that it’s well loved, but I’m glad that I was able to find some enjoyment out of this story. Even if it wasn’t necessarily from the source material. And I know that’s how a lot of people who don’t take as much interest in books feel! Sometimes you don’t need the book to enjoy the other content, and I feel like this is good proof of that.
See you across the pond!