Always and Forever, Lara Jean: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and  P. S. I Still Love You. As such there are major spoilers for both preceding books in this review.*

“There’s so much to be excited about, if you let yourself be.”

It feels like everything is changing for Lara Jean the spring of her senior year in high school. She and Peter K. are still together but she is waiting for those much-anticipated college acceptance letters. Margot seems farther away than ever in Scotland especially as their father announces his plans to remarry. Kitty, the youngest Song girl, is ecstatic about the wedding and seems to be growing up all too quickly.

Lara Jean knows exactly how she wants the rest of her senior year and college to go. But even with all of her careful planning it seems like Lara Jean will still have to face some unexpected decisions and opportunities in Always and Forever, Lara Jean (2017) by Jenny Han.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the unexpected third book in Han’s Lara Jean trilogy which began with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and  P. S. I Still Love You. Han wrote this book in secret as a surprise for her readers who are fans of this series and these characters.

This final installment starts near Easter as Lara Jean is anxiously waiting to hear back from colleges and trying to plan what will come next for her own future as well as her future with Peter. Surprise college decisions and other changes prove that even the best laid plans can be changed and, more importantly, your future is your own to shape.

Lara Jean remains a sweet and thoughtful narrator here facing some universal dilemmas particularly when she realizes her dreams about college are not going to resemble her reality. Lara Jean has always had an excellent support system with her family, friends, and Peter but it’s especially nice to see Lara Jean making her own decisions here even if sometimes they are scary choices. Throughout this quiet novel Lara Jean demonstrates her signature blend of resilience and optimism.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the perfect conclusion for this series and these characters. A memorable and satisfying send off for fans of this much loved series.

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson, Undercover by Beth Kephart, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Don’t forget to check out all of my buttons inspired by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before & P. S. I Still Love You

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P. S. I Still Love You: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*P. S. I Still Love You is the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. As such there are major spoilers for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in this review.*

“You only know you can do something if you keep on doing it.”

psistillloveLara Jean didn’t know what to expect when all of her love letter’s were mailed. She knew she was upset and panicked. What she didn’t know was that the letter she wrote Peter K in eighth grade would lead to a fake relationship. She never would have guessed that it would lead to something more.

Lara Jean knows she loves Peter now. For real, not as part of their pretend dating. But she still doesn’t want to get her heart broken. She’s still afraid of getting hurt.

When another love letter makes its way back to her, Lara Jean is confronted with feelings from a crush she never quite forgot. Lara Jean might have feelings for two boys. But she can only be with one in P. S. I Still Love You (2015) by Jenny Han.

P. S. I Still Love You is the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and picks up shortly after the first book’s conclusion.

It’s hard to give this book a “real” review because there are a lot of spoilers–even with the summary because a lot of the driving plot mentioned above doesn’t come until after the first hundred pages.

P. S. I Still Love You was one of my most anticipated 2015 releases. While To All the Boys I Loved Before is a solid novel and functions perfectly as a standalone, I loved Lara Jean enough to want to read more. I also had a sneaking suspicion this book would have more John Ambrose McClaren* which I definitely needed in my life. (Not going to lie, he is my favorite character.)

This book does not disappoint. Although a lot of the plot focuses on Lara Jean’s romantic life, this story has a lot more going on. Lara Jean is still trying to be a good sister and live up to the standard set by Margot. She’s still taking care of Kitty and their father. She has to face cyber-bullying and changing friendships. Thanks to Peter (and her letters getting sent) Lara Jean has also come out of her shell and is trying new things.

It is particularly poignant to watch Lara Jean learn that the bonds that tie people together don’t always last forever and, more importantly, that sometimes that is the best thing for everyone. This story is imbued with a sense of nostalgia for the past as Lara Jean looks back on moments from her childhood but also immense optimism in terms of facing the unknown as she wonders what might come next.

Although Lara Jean doesn’t always make the decisions I would make in her position, she is such a well-written character that it doesn’t matter. Everything Lara Jean does and chooses makes perfect sense for her character in the moment so that the overall ending is deeply satisfying and absolutely perfect given the arc of both books.

P. S. I Still Love You is a must-read for fans of Jenny Han and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Also highly recommended for readers who enjoy slice-of-life novels with fun families, light (happy) romances, and especially for readers looking for a book that encapsulates nostalgia and optimism like no other.

*Follow me to my Exclusive Bonus Content if you want to talk more about John Ambrose McClaren (with some spoilers)!

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson, Undercover by Beth Kephart, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Exclusive Bonus Content: I loved John Ambrose McClaren just from the snippets we got about him in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Sometimes with a secondary character you can tell, by how they are written, that they are loved by the author and have a bigger story of their own. That was definitely the case with John and I was absolutely thrilled to find he played a bigger role in the novel.

While the romance aspect of P. S. I Still Love You didn’t go exactly how I had wanted (Team JAM in case I wasn’t clear) it still totally made sense for Lara Jean. I also feel pretty strongly that she and JAM will find their way back to each other, but I’m okay with having to imagine that part on my own–that’s the nice thing about open-ended conclusions to a favorite book.

So obviously I had strong feelings about these characters. Because of that, I made some buttons for any fans who want to declare their allegiance. You can see them all in my Buttons inspired by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before & P. S. I Still Love You post. Also you can tell from my blog’s sidebar which teams I have chosen.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny HanLara Jean likes a lot of things like baking and scrapbooking. She loves her family and, most of the time, she enjoys spending time with her sisters. Above all, Lara Jean knows who she is and she is happy with that person.

Sometimes, like a lot of girls, Lara Jean has a crush. She might even call it love. But nothing has ever come of that. Any time the feelings get too big or too uncomfortable, Lara Jean just sits down and writes a love letter. She addresses it, seals the envelope, and puts the letter away in the teal hatbox her mother gave her. Easy.

Until the day all of Lara Jean’s most private love letters are mailed.

No one was ever supposed to see the letters except Lara Jean. They were never meant for anyone else. With all of her feelings laid bare for these five boys, Lara Jean isn’t sure how to go back to the girl she used to be before the letters were delivered in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2014) by Jenny Han.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the first book in a planned duology. The second book P. S. I Still Love You is scheduled to publish in 2015.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a delightful breathe of fresh air.

Lara Jean is a realistic, immediately endearing heroine. She, like so many of us, walks a thin line between confident self-assurance and moments of doubt. Although (hopefully) most readers will not find themselves in the same situation, Lara Jean’s story remains totally approachable.

In addition to an original, well-paced story, Han thoughtfully addresses issues of racial identity and family dynamics. Although part of a duology, the story is fairly well-contained with just the right blend of closure and hints of things to come. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a subtle, flawless read. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson, Undercover by Beth Kephart, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Exclusive Bonus Content: I can’t get over the book design. It’s so fantastic from the cover model and the title that looks like it’s written in sharpie to the way the title and author name appear at the bottom of the page as if a signature is on every page. Genius.

Burn for Burn: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan VivianLillia is pretty, rich, and used to getting everything she wants including having boys wrapped around her little finger. Until things go too far over the summer. After that Lillia isn’t sure of anything–especially how to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to her little sister. Ever.

Kat is tired of being an outsider subjected to insults and cruel jokes. She knows her former best friend is to blame. She might even know how to make her pay.

Mary left Jar Island four years ago because of a boy. She’s back now. She’s ready to show him just how different she is. And just how much he has to make up for.

These three very different girls are all after the same thing in Burn for Burn (2012) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian.

Burn for Burn is the first book in a series as well as the first book Han and Vivian have written together.

Revenge stories like this one always run the risk of being one-sided. There is also always the potential that the protagonist will come across as unsympathetic or just plain mean.

Han and Vivian avoid these common pitfalls in Burn for Burn. The authors have created a convincingly idyllic island town with secrets and, for Lillia, Kat, and Mary, many wrongs just begging to be righted.

With chapters alternating between each girl’s narration, the story examines each heroine’s motivations making readers more than willing to follow this trio on their missions of revenge.

The objects of the girls’ wrath are also generally well-developed with both good and bad moments during the narrative. Alex is particularly dimensional. I would have liked to see more of Rennie and Reeve’s good sides, such as they are, but that might come up in the sequel.

While Burn for Burn focuses on all three girls and their plans for revenge the pacing shifts so that most of the story focuses on Lillia and, to a lesser degree, Kat. Mary is important as a device to move the plot forward but doesn’t get as much chance to feature as a character in her own right.* Things progress in a logical fashion until the last quarter of the novel when Han and Vivian start to rush, perhaps in an effort to amp up tension before the shocking finish.

By the end of Burn for Burn, Han and Vivian have managed to turn a lot of preconceived notions about the characters and the story itself upside down. With a cliffhanger ending and a lot of unanswered questions Burn for Burn is sure to leave readers clamoring for the sequel.

*I have a lot of theories about Mary and the ending of Burn for Burn. If you’ve read it, I bet you do too. Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Possible Pairings: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, Graffiti Moon by Cath  Crowley, Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst, Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Fury by Elizabeth Miles, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson

Exclusive Bonus Content: I really like the idea of the cover with the three girls and the muted colors that suggest a potentially sweet story. I think the depiction of Mary (center) is especially accurate to her character and spot on from her clothing to her jewelry.

Kat (left) looked a bit too refined and clean-cut compared to the Kat we meet in the novel. And, of course, I was thrilled with Lillia (right) being such a well-rounded, central character who is Korean (and on a cover).

But again that comes with a caveat: The jacket art wraps around from the front cover across the spine and to the back of the jacket so we can see all of Kat and Mary. Lillia is on the edge of the cover and, theoretically, her image could have wrapped around under the flap copy (since the image is so muted anyway) but instead it’s abruptly cut off with a white box for the summary text. It’s probably coincidence that the person of color was the one cut off, but it still made me think.

Also, since I’m already dissecting everything else about the cover, I thought it was odd that Mary was in the center. Her arrival sets a lot of things in motion but as I said she is more plot device than character at this point. In terms of page time Lillia is the obvious choice for the center of the cover (with Kat a close second). Yet, both of them are on the periphery of the cover.

I don’t know how long it will be up but if, like me, you were deeply affected by the missing part of the cover Jenny Han’s website currently features the entire image from the Burn for Burn cover.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*