Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Lara Jean is having the best senior year.
And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.
Life couldn’t be more perfect!
At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.
Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?
When I started this book, within about twenty pages I was sure I knew exactly how it was going to end. I was still plenty enjoying reading it, even as the inevitable played out right before my eyes. And then… it didn’t. Always and Forever, Lara Jean ended completely differently than I was expecting. It was just so sweet, and heartwarming, and gave me all the feels. Guys, I cried.
All along this series has been so much more than a romance. This final installment took that to the next level. Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship, which is now solid, takes a backseat to the family narrative.
The main story line is Lara Jean decided on where she will go to college. She has her whole life planned out and then, well, things don’t go the way she planned. I related to this so closely. Though it wasn’t college but post-grad, I’ve been where Lara Jean is, and I’ve felt the heartbreak and the uncertainty. It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions that poor Lara Jean had no way to be prepared for. I’m so glad this was the primary focus of the story, because this is so important to American teens.
The other important side-story is Lara Jean’s dad’s relationship. Family dynamics have always been a strong point in this series, and it was nice to read about how families grow and change. The process isn’t easy or smooth, and the Song girls experience some growing pains. It was especially nice to see Margot out of her element and less than perfect.
But for everything, Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship is ever-present in this book. Remember when you were eighteen, so sure of everything? It seemed like if you just loved each other hard enough, nothing else mattered. Han captured that teen optimism so perfectly, even in the midst of uncertainty and change.
My favorite thing about this series has always been the slice of life details. That you get to see where Lara Jean orders her prom dress from. What movie they watch on a Friday night. Families bickering over where they’re going for dinner. What ingredients she puts in her perfect chocolate chip cookies. It’s all these little things that make the book feel like real life and the people in it feel like more than just characters.
I loved this series. It is so much more than a romance. If I had a teenage daughter I would hand it to her in a heartbeat. Sex, college, bullying, they are all handled in such a straightforward but sensitive manner, without talking down to teens. If you love YA, this is a must-read series.