Call Me By Your Name Review: Gorgeous Summer Sensuality in the Depths of Winter

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I still can’t place my finger on when exactly I first heard about “Call Me By Your Name.” There has been buzz surrounding it for nearly a year since its January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. All I knew about it was that it was set in Northern Italy and was about two young men who fall in love. What really drew me to it was the lush cinematography of the early promotional clips. My mind was set—I had to watch it as soon as I was able.

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This summer, the “Call Me By Your Name” hype grew and I was bursting at the seams to watch it. Reviewers were describing it as “tantalizing” and “sensual” and “summery.” It promised to be a visual feast with a beguiling love story. It also promised to be raw and heart-wrenching. The wait was excruciating.

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Finally, the time I had basically been waiting for all year arrived. It was November, I was in London and “Call Me By Your Name” had just come out in the UK a couple of weeks before. I was ecstatic. I got tickets to see it at the Curzon Cinema in Soho, a member of a arthouse cinema chain. The environment was relaxed and perfect—cushy seats, chill ambience and a packed theater full of other eager moviegoers.

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It’s hard to put into words how much I adored “Call Me By Your Name.” It’s genteel, refined and intellectually stimulating.

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The cinematography really sold the summer languor of the film, focusing on luscious, verdant pastoral views and casting the characters in an incandescent light. Every scene during the day was aglow with golden natural light, and the mood was somnolent. The night scenes were humming with barely contained energy, softly lit with hallowed coloring. The setting—a small town in Northern Italy in the 1980s—was picture perfect.

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It is set at the home of the Perlmans. The son, Elio Perlman, is home for the summer when he meets Oliver, an American PhD student who is studying the Classics with Elio’s father and residing with the Perlmans for the summer. And so ensues the pas de deux, a clandestine dance between the two love interests as they skirt around their feelings for each other. Elio (Timothee Chalamet) possesses an almost bird-like fragility, prone to sudden spurts of energy and flightiness. Oliver (Armie Hammer) is larger than life, filling up every room enters with his presence.

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Elio is the definition of precocious. He transcribes classical music, performs renditions of classics on the piano and reads and reads and reads. He is graced with intellectual precision. To him, at first, the burly American is uncouth and brusque. They are stark opposites, yet their chemistry is electric. Chalamet’s acting as the lovelorn Elio is magnificent. The sharp interest in his gaze when watching Oliver is palpable.

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This is a film that forces you to feel every single emotion displayed on screen. It holds your feelings hostage. And so, as it seeped with romance, I could feel my own heart spilling over. I felt the dizziness and the grandeur of that summer love. The scenes between Elio and Oliver as they discovered the depths of their feelings for each other had the wispy air of a dream. If you’re a hopeless romantic, you’ll be squealing internally. The sexual chemistry burns fiery hot and their mutual desire is as succulent as the fruits that thematically pop up throughout the film.

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Yet, with the highs come the lows, and Oliver must return to America at the end of the summer. This was the emotional weight of the film, and it wrung my heart out. Chalamet portrays a young man losing his emotional center with a sincerity that is absolutely heartbreaking. Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) gives a truly sagacious monologue to Elio towards the end of the film that touches the soul and which I believe truly encapsulates the weight of first love.

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There were points in the film when I just wanted to bottle up the feelings I had in response to the imagery and keep them close to me forever. The music only heightened those feelings; the soundtrack was blessed with three songs from Sufjan Stevens (my personal favorite being the lugubrious Visions of Gideon), an artist that is able to transmit delicate love in his craft. The final scene was the most poignant and deeply moving of the entire film. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that it will hit you in waves of emotion that you may have even forgotten how to feel.

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If you love visually, intellectually and emotionally stimulating films, you will find all that and more in “Call Me By Your Name.”

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Side Note: How they make the simple act of biking look so spellbinding?

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10/10 Stars

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Teaser Tuesday: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Cinder

Author: Marissa Meyer

Published: January 3, 2012

Series: The Lunar Chronicles

Pages: 387

Genres: Fantasy, Young-adult fiction, Novel, Fairy tale, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance novel, Utopian and dystopian fiction

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads

Synopsis

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

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Cinder is one of those books that I am constantly told to read while never actually getting around to reading it. It’s been highly recommended to me and I finally got a hold of a copy. I purchased it from my local book store, Wellesley Books, which is just down the street from my university, Wellesley College.

I must admit it has been a slow read so far, and I am still waiting for the story to pick up. Hopefully, it will deliver, as I have high expectations for such a widely-praised book.

The fantasy story follows Cinder, a cyborg, who falls in love with Prince Kai, as far as I can tell right now. What I find compelling about is that it’s supposed to be a sci-fi retelling of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella. I’m a big fan of modern twists to ancient fairy tale stories, such as Once Upon A Time, A Cinderella Story, Beastly, and Snow White & The Huntsman.

Here’s a teaser (page 6):

“She shoved back from the desk, her scowl landing first on a lifeless android that sat squat on her worktable and then on the man behind it. She was met with startled copper brown eyes and black hair that hung past his ears and lips that every girl in the country had admired a thousand times.

Her scowl vanished.”

Want to know what happens next? Well, you’ll simply have to get the book!

“Waiting on Wednesday”: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Fan-made book cover
Fan-made book cover

Lady Midnight

Cassandra Clare

To Be Released March 2016

Los Angeles. It’s been five years since the events of the Mortal Instruments when Nephilim stood poised on the brink of oblivion and Shadowhunter Emma Carstairs lost her parents. After the blood and violence she witnessed as a child, Emma has dedicated her life to to discovering exactly what it was that killed her parents and getting her revenge.

Raised in the Los Angeles Institute with the Blackthorn family, Emma is paired as a parabatai with her best friend, Julian Blackthorn. A series of murders in the city catch her attention — they seem to have the same characteristics as the deaths of her parents. Could the murderer be the same person? And her attention isn’t the only one caught: someone has been murdering Downworlders as well. The Fair Folk make a deal with the Institute: if the Blackthorns and Emma will investigate the killings, they’ll return Mark Blackthorn to his home. The catch: they have only two weeks to find the killers. Otherwise it’s open war between faeries and Nephilim.

The Shadowhunters of the Institute must race against time to catch the killers, even as they begin to suspect the involvement of those closest to them. At the same time, Emma is falling in love with the one person in the world she’s absolutely forbidden by Shadowhunter Law to love. Set against the glittering backdrop of present-day Los Angeles, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches from the warlock-run nightclubs of the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica.

I am beyond excited for Cassandra Clare’s new addition to her Shadowhunter World: her upcoming series, The Dark Artifices. Lady Midnight will be the first book in the series.

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It follows the life of seventeen-year-old Emma Carstairs, an orphaned shadowhunter, and her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn. She idolizes Jace Herondale and is a badass fighter. She aims to exact revenge upon whoever killed her parents, bringing comparisons to my mind to Arya Stark of Game of Thrones, another kick ass fantasy female character much loved by me.

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I’m super thrilled to read her story, especially since I can’t get enough of shadowhunters in general. It’s so exhilarating to have another girl to join the ranks of Clary Fray, Tessa Gray, and Isabelle Lightwood. I’m particularly elated for a main female character who seems to be a fierce warrior. I’m used to seeing that more from male characters like Jace and Will Herondale. Sure, Isabelle was tough, but I see her more as a femme fatale, than just a kickass fighter. I’m highly anticipating Emma’s badassery.

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I can’t wait to explore Emma and Julian’s relationship as parabatai of the opposite sex. It’s cute how Emma is going to be crushing on, and I’m always a sucker for forbidden romance (parabatai cannot be together romantically). More so, I’m ecstatic to get to read an opposite sex friendship that also involves them being fighting partners.

Julian’s family, the Blackthorns, are going to be so much fun to read! I love reading about big families. I’m so interested in their family dynamic and reading the interactions between all the many different kids: Helen, Mark, Julian, Livia, Tiberius, Drusilla, and Octavian. I’m also particularly fascinated by the faerie blood in their family as a result of their father, Andrew Blackthorn’s extra-marital affair with a faerie producing Helen and Mark. I find it interesting that he named all his kids after Greek and Latin historical. I’m falling in love with this Shadowhunter family already.

Something that is really exciting about this series is that it is set in Los Angeles, which is a far cry from the New York setting in the Mortal Instruments series. It also continues Cassandra Clare’s portrayal of different big cities in her books, such as London in The Infernal Devices. I think that Los Angeles is going to be a fresh, interesting setting.

Mark is a character that I am desperate to know more about. I need to find out what happens to him after the events of City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6). He’s the second child and oldest boy of the Blackthorns, and his character really intrigues me. I don’t want to give away any  events of CoHF, though. I suspect that he could also be a love interest for Emma, which I wouldn’t mind at all. Fingers crossed!

After reading about Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorns last summer in CoHF, I’m dying to read more about this enchanting bunch. I was drawn to twelve-year-old Emma’s impetus and outspokenness in CoHF, so I’m highly anticipating more of that in Lady Midnight. 2016 can’t come fast enough!

If you’re interested in kick-ass heroines, large families, and forbidden love, look no further than Lady Midnight, coming out in March 2016!

Film Review: Far From the Madding Crowd: Endearing Feminist Romance

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I have a confession to make: I really, really, really love Period Dramas. There’s just something about history that I’m so transfixed by: the fashion, the scenery, the old customs. It’s enchanting to me.

When I heard about Far From the Madding Crowd, I was thrilled. It wasn’t just that it was a period drama. I was drawn to the heroine’s description as headstrong and independent. Bathsheba Everdene (played by the dainty Carey Mulligan) was a woman who could take care of herself in a society that dictates that women be taken care of. I couldn’t wait to watch that unfold onscreen, being a feminist and all.

Hollywood starlet Carey Mulligan during the filming of an adaptation of the novel Far from the Madding Crowd in Sherborne, Dorset. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 20, 2013. Some scenes from the adaptation of the classic Thomas Hardy novel are being filmed in part of the town which has been transformed to fit the Victorian setting of the film. Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
Hollywood starlet Carey Mulligan during the filming of an adaptation of the novel Far from the Madding Crowd in Sherborne, Dorset. Photo credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

There was also the not one, not two, but THREE (yes, three!) love interests for one heroine. The hopeless romantic that I am, I was almost giddy with excitement.

So how did Far From the Madding Crowd fare?

I found the background music heavenly, enamored with the violin and piano sounds.

All the main characters were just so pretty and handsome. There was a lot of really good eye-candy with such a beautiful cast. All three love interests (played by Matthias Schoenartes, Tom Sturridge, and Michael Sheen) were exceptionally dashing, charming, and disarming in their own different ways.

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I was overjoyed to watch a feminist lead character. She was independent, the boss, owned property, and didn’t need “things” from a man to marry him. I admired her self-sufficiency and strength greatly.

The scenery was so gorgeous: rollicking hills, luscious green pastures, and tranquil bodies of water. Being an artsy person, I was really enchanted by the interior designs – artful with grandeur. I love really stately interior designs in my period dramas, and was blown away by the elegance in Far From the Madding Crowd.

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I was especially enamored with the moving romance at the center of the movie. It was long-lasting and touching with a beautiful ending of endearing passion and love. The sexual tension was drawn out for maximum effect. Bathsheba Everdene finally got with the one man who’d stuck with her through thick and thin. It was so sweet. The secondary romance was a tragic love pulling at my heartstrings, which hit me deep.

A particular quote stood out to me, spoken by Bathsheba, my feminist heroine: “It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language chiefly made by men to express theirs.” So thought provoking.

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I’d give Far From the Madding Crowd a 10/10. It is a magnificently directed film with a very aesthetically pleasing cinematography. I feel like it told a great love story and really enjoyed the feminist values. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who loves period dramas, strong female leads, and heartwarming romance.

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Admittedly, I read this classic for my English class, American Literature, my junior year. Yet, I felt the pressing need to talk about this riveting book as it completely captured my imagination. This holiday, I watched the modern remake of the movie based on the Great Gatsby, and it seems necessary to compare and contrast the two: The Book, and The Movie starring the striking Leonardo diCaprio.

THE BOOK

The narrator is an impressionable, analytical, judgmental young man who recently moved to the East to find glamor and adventure. He represents the young souls in all of us, eager for romance and excitement, yet judgmental of the people caught up in that lifestyle. He is the outsider, watching the lives of other people unfurl around him in New York City. Our narrator, Nick Carraway, is the voice of the readers themselves.

The main character of the story is actually the enigmatic Jay Gatsby, one of the nouveau-riche of West Egg, thrower of lavish parties and owner of a vast amount of wealth. No one could figure out where exactly the wealth came from, which intensified the mystery encompassing Gatsby. Nick Carraway is the next door neighbor who watches the parties from afar until he is invited by Gatsby himself. He is thrown into the prodigality of the Jazz Age: 1920’s America, where the only concern is having fun dancing and drinking.

On the other end is West Egg of the wealthy people of old money, inherited wealth. Here we are introduced by Nick to Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Tom is your typical Alpha male douchebag who peaked in high school/college, while Daisy can best be described as a delicate flower, ditzy and romantic.

The epic romance unfurls as Nick discovers that Daisy and Gatsby used to be lovers until they were tragically separated when Gatsby went off to war. Daisy, as a rich young and beautiful socialite, was pressured into marrying a wealthy man (Tom) by her mother. What really got me was how Gatsby had purposely gotten a mansion right opposite Daisy’s in order to be secretly near her. He threw all those parties just to get her attention, hoping that she would stop by sometime, but she never did. That was literally the cutest thing I had ever read.

So Gatsby gets Nick to invite Daisy over to HIS house for tea, so he, Gatsby, could kind of just ‘drop in’ and run into Daisy again. Gatsby was so nervous about it and wanted everything to be perfect for their run-in. On the day, Gatsby is a nervous wreck, and I just found it so adorable, how much he cared about Daisy and what she thought. When Daisy arrives, at first its awkward, but then they start talking to each other like old times, and my heart is literally bursting with joy for them and their young love renewed.

The really sad thing, however, is how Gatsby wants to repeat the past, before he went to war, and fix it by having Daisy tell him she never loved Tom, only him, and by marrying Daisy. It’s also romantic but so tragic because you can;t repeat the past, and it’s heart breaking to see Gatsby get his hopes up. Nick, like us, knows Gatsby can’t fix the past, and tells him so, but Gatsby stubbornly wants to believe that he can.

Gatsby and Daisy become clandestine lovers and Daisy so much as comes to one of Gatsby’s parties with Tom, and sneak off with Gatsby.

It all comes to a head when Gatsby goes over for tea or whatever at the Buchanans’ house, and Tom has already suspected him and Daisy of hating something. The air is steely and tense. Daisy can’t stand it (she can’t cope with difficult situations) and asks if they can go into the city. They go, and Gatsby and Tom start arguing, for goodness sake! Gatsby ends up telling Tom that Daisy never loved him, and only loved him, Gatsby. Daisy echoes Gatsby’s statement, but half-heartedly, which already rang warning bells in my mind. As the fight goes on, Daisy finally admits that she had loved Tom, once, but she loved Gatsby too, and tells Gatsby that he’s asking for too much from her. By this time, I was sick of snivelly, oh-I’m-too-fragile-for-this-I-can’t-handle-it Daisy.

The fight between Tom and Gatsby thickens as Tom reveals what he’s discovered about Gatsby. He’s a bootlegger! That was where he got all his money from! The moment Daisy realizes Gatsby’s not of her social standing, she shrinks away from him, even as he pleads with her and denies everything (lying). Daisy, so typically, practically runs back to Tom to take her away from this HORRIFYING experience and Tom revels in his victory.

To cut the long story short, Gatsby dies for Daisy, it’s all very tragically romantic, and when I was reading it I was literally so surprised because I wasn’t even sure if he was dead or not, but then he was, and it was SO sad. Daisy doesn’t so much as come to the phone when Nick tries to call her, and she doesn’t come for Gatsby’s funeral either.

So I guess the moral of this story is rich girls don’t marry poor guys, which is funny, because that is exactly what happened to the author, Scotty here. Or the moral is that Daisy was a heartbreaking bitch, Tom was an asshole, and Gatsby was a hopeless fool in love.

THE MOVIE

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I know a lot of people who read the book hated the 2013 adaptation of the movie, but I LOVED it. It blew me away and I was completely enchanted from start to finish.

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Tobey Maguire is Nick Carraway, and he was so brilliant at being the wallflower kind of guy, who saw everything but didn’t really do anything. He said direct quotes from the book, poignant observations from Nick in the book and their apt time in the movie. I was so thrilled!

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The effects made everything look larger than life, which is exactly how it was meant to be. It was incredible seeing the Buchanan’s house visually represented because I could see now just how lavishly wealthy they were, how huge and magnificent a house they had.The parties were over the top, so amazing, really reinforcing how brilliant they were in the book. They did a GREAT job at that; the ostentatious opulence.

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Joe Edgerton as Tom was perfect. He looked like an asshole, he talked like an asshole, he oozed hateability through every pore. Carey Mulligan as Daisy was flawless. She was just as I imagined her, all delicate and elegant, pale and doe-eyed, with a cute nub for a nose and classy, classic beauty. She was just the right amount of ditzy and shrewd. Gatsby took the cake. Leonardo diCaprio was Gatsby, and my fangirl heart melted. He was dapper, he was charming, he was arrestingly cute, and just pure Gatsby.

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I was really happy how they basically followed the book, but with little variations here and there that didn’t take away from the surprise. Sure, it wasn’t always word-for-word like the older adaptation, but really, what did you expect in this modern day? The only thing that I didn’t like was how they didn’t show Daisy’s daughter. Apart from that, the movie was splendid.

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Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Age of Adaline: Charming Visual Masterpiece

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The Age of Adaline

Starring: Blake Lively

Released: April 2015

Watched: June 2015

IMDB rating: 7.3/10

My Thoughts

The Age of Adaline is such a visually stunning film. The cinematography was so pleasing to the eye. I was entranced by the enchanting scenery in pretty much every scene in the film.

THE AGE OF ADALINE - 2015 FILM STILL - Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) - Photo Credit: Diyah Pera
THE AGE OF ADALINE – 2015 FILM STILL – Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) – Photo Credit: Diyah Pera

The Age of Adaline is a film about a beautiful young lady who is rendered immortal and ageless after a horrific car crash, and how she struggles with love as a person who can outlive all her lovers. Blake Lively plays Adaline, the protagonist, and she is just perfect for the role.

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You may remember Blake Lively as Serena in Gossip Girl, the effortlessly classy and charismatic high society girl. Similarly, Adaline was elegant and refined with impeccable style and a winsome smile. She captured and held my attention throughout the film with her air of grace and beautifully tailored style choices.

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51358510 Actress Blake Lively films scenes for 'Age of Adaline' at the Vancouver Art Gallery on March 18, 2014 in Vancouver, Canada. FameFlynet, Inc - Beverly Hills, CA, USA - +1 (818) 307-4813
51358510 Actress Blake Lively films scenes for ‘Age of Adaline’ at the Vancouver Art Gallery on March 18, 2014 in Vancouver, Canada. FameFlynet, Inc – Beverly Hills, CA, USA – +1 (818) 307-4813

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The romance was swoon-worthy. Adaline falls in love with a dashing, disarming young man, acted by Michael Huisman, better known for his portrayal of Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones. They were so pleasantly adorable together.

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I feel like the film relayed an essential message of what it’s like to be alive without really living, confronting the blustering beauty of the past, and setting yourself free from your self-imposed chains.

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Overall, this aesthetically pleasing film is the prettiest and most charming film I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.

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My rating: 8.5/10

Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

to all the boys I've loved beforeTo All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Jenny Han

Published April 2014

Read April 2015

Find it on: Amazon Goodreads Barnes and Noble Simon and Schuster

Synopsis

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

My Thoughts

Where, oh where do I begin with this book? I bought it as a sort of bubble gum-fluffy-cutesy-quick breeze through read, and I wasn’t disappointed on that front. But my problem with this book is, was it really about all the boys she loved before?

I picked up this book hoping to nostalgically reconnect with the sort of crushes my younger self used to have. Instead, I got a heaping of sisterhood. Sisterhood is great and all, and I’ve always enjoyed books on that topic, but I was not expecting that in this book. Han packaged this book to be about cute young crushes when it was really about the protagonist, Lara Jean’s relationship with her older sister and said sister’s unattainable perfection.

Margot, Lara Jean’s big sister, is one of those characters who are supposed to be perfect and meticulous and fastidious and do everything correctly. I only ever got to see her through Lara Jean’s eyes, and Lara Jean basically worshiped the ground she walked for most of the book, which got really boring really fast. Lara Jean obviously idolized Margot and measured herself up against her big sister’s perfection.

I didn’t particularly like Lara Jean or Margot, but I loved their little sister, Kitty. Kitty had an acerbic tongue, which I really enjoyed. She was sharp witted, a little sassy, and a breath of fresh air in a book filled with such stuffy characters.

The actual romance aspect of the book was pretty predictable. However, I did enjoy some really cute parts between Lara Jean and two of the boys she’d loved before. Those gave me what I’d been looking for: adorable, sweet, young teenage crushes. I also liked the way Han developed the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter. I noticed how she basically recycled the camaraderie between Belly and her summer boys from her Summer Trilogy but basically switched the genders to end up with Josh and his Song girls. Somehow, it worked.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll just tell you that if you’re looking for a fluffy bunny romance alone, you’ll be looking for a diamond in the rough.

Rating: 3/5