Note: Some spoilers for the first book in the series.
This book picks up immediately after the first book in the series, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, as if it were just the next chapter. While each of the books in the series “ends,” they aren’t really standalones.
In the first book, we learn that Lara Jean Song Covey, 16, wrote secret love letters to every boy she has ever loved – five in all. She never sent those letters; rather, she kept them in a hat box her mother gave her before dying six years before. But the letters somehow got sent out, and two boys in particular have reacted to Lara Jean with interest after reading them.
One of them is Peter Kavinsky, a handsome boy in Lara Jean’s class in junior high. In the first book, Lara Jean and Peter got together as a couple, after some fits and starts. Everyone assumes they are having sex, especially after a video went viral of them together in a hot tub. But they were only kissing, albeit passionately. Lara Jean is not ready for sex, and thinks: “I decide that Peter and I will be the relationship equivalent of a brisket. Slow and low. We will heat up for each other over time.” Whenever she sees someone watching the hot tub video, she wants to scream at them: “We didn’t have sex! We are brisket!”
Meanwhile, Peter keeps hanging out with his former girlfriend Genevieve, telling Lara Jean he needs to comfort her because of a family problem she has that he can’t reveal. Genevieve used to be Lara Jean’s best friend, but no longer is. Since Peter started seeing Lara Jean, her relations with Genevieve are even worse. Lara Jean is hurt and angry about Peter and Genevieve, and feels like Peter isn’t over Genevieve. She tells him she deserves “to be someone’s number one girl.” He claims she is, but she doesn’t believe him, and breaks up with him. She starts seeing another boy who received one of her letters, John Ambrose McClaren.
John likes Lara Jean a lot, but she finds she cannot get over Peter as a boyfriend, or even Genevieve as a friend.
“There’s a Korean word my grandma taught me. It’s called jung. It’s the connection between two people that can’t be severed, even when love turns to hate. You still have those old feelings for them; you can’t ever completely shake them loose of you; you will always have tenderness in your heart for them. I think this must be some part of what I feel for Genevieve. Jung is why I can’t hate her. We’re tied. And Jung is why Peter can’t let her go. They’re tied too.”
She even asked Genevieve if they could be friends again, but Genevieve just scornfully told her to grow up. Lara Jean realizes that “People come in and out of your life. For a time they are your world; they are everything. And then one day they’re not. There’s no telling how long you will have them near.”
It’s obvious Lara Jean and Peter need to be honest with one another, and Lara Jean needs to decide between Peter and John.
Evaluation: I am warming up to Lara Jean, even though it’s certainly true, as both Peter and Genevieve told her, that she needs to grow up. But she’s endearing and good-hearted. Her problems are also more “sweet” than “dire,” a nice change from so many contemporary young adult books.
Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2015