Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Author: Jenny Han
Series? Yes (Final book in a trilogy)
Mild Spoilers for first two books but spoiler free for the last one.
I started reading this book at 5pm on Saturday and kept reading until 1 in the morning with only an hourish break for dinner. In that 8 hour time span, my dear reader, I felt unbearable warmth, happiness and most of all nostalgia. And at the end, even though I knew it was the end, I still felt like there was so much more story left to these characters, that these characters have blossomed into people that I knew.
As with any last book in the series, I felt that preanxiety that comes with having such high expectations of a final novel. The story of this book’s inception is heartwarming in its own way. In an interview, Jenny Han spoke about how she was working on her new project but couldn’t because she kept thinking about what Lara Jean and Peter were up to.
Last winter, I was working on a new book, and I just couldn’t figure out how to unlock it. My mind kept drifting to Lara Jean and Peter, I kept thinking wistful thoughts, like, I wonder what those two are up to now. When I finished P.S. I Still Love You, I truly was done with the series. Always, it had been meant to be just the two. But I suppose time and space had made me nostalgic, because they were all I could think about. One night I called up my best friend and sometimes co-author Siobhan Vivian and asked her, would it be crazy if I wrote just one more book? She said not at all. She told me to try and see. So that same night, I started writing, and I couldn’t stop. I wrote until the sun came up.
-Jenny Han from EW article
There is something so natural about this story that I’ve never been able to find in other YA contemporaries. In this one, Lara Jean and Peter are in their final year of high school. They have graduation coming up and all the other things high school seniors look forward to: the senior trip, prom and of course the anxiety of college admissions. Lara Jean has plans for her future but they all start to unravel and she starts to question what is truly the right path for her.
I swear some scenes in this book took me back to some exact moments of my high school career. Not gonna lie, I kind of teared up a little when Lara Jean is anxiously opening up her email that determines whether she got accepted or rejected to UVA. Moments like these are what I’ve always loved about this series. Most YA contemporaries kind of skip this part or shove it in near the end as a sort of cherry on top of the icing at the end of the book and more often than not, they just get accepted into their dream school nbd. I just completely love the detail that Jenny Han puts into this series from the food (yaas to all the chocolate chip cookie baking in this one) to Lara Jean’s clothes (Lara Jean’s prom dress) and even to Peter’s lacrosse experience. Jenny Han even did research, people, research to make the college admissions part as true to life as possible. She even spoke to the Dean of Admissions and the lacrosse department at UVA.
It just encapsulates a high school experience that feels so authentic, like this is truly what a YA contemporary should be about. I understand that YA contemporary is not suppose to be 100% realistic, otherwise where the hell is my Peter Kavinsky but just adding these tiny details that you only subconsciously absorb brought me more into the story, this more visceral experience. And I love it. Some scenes just brought me back to my final days of high school, my final class of high school which I probably just spent signing yearbooks, my final day of walking the grass behind my school for AP Government. and having this sense of finality and this feeling of an end but also this anticipation that things are just starting for you.
I also love seeing that reflected in Lara Jean. Throughout this series, she has always been content with where she is but she’s realizing that she can open herself up to new possibilities that she never thought were right for her.
And on top of that, Lara Jean learns more about her relationship with Peter. I feel like this book was the perfect combination of the fluffiness and cuteness of book 1 and the angst and them dealing with real problems from Book 2. I just love how you can see how much they love and care about each other. They have to think about what every high school couple thinks about, if they’re even going to survive being apart and the delicate state of a high school relationship. Peter’s arc also has a wonderful sense of growth. His dad makes a reappearance in this one and he has to decide whether to let him into his life or not. I really like how Peter’s insecurities are put to the forefront. Peter has always been one of my favorites in this series because he is not necessarily this arrogant boy with a heart of gold or this nerdy guy who will understand all of your Star Wars references or even this sickly sweet nice love interest who can do no wrong. Let’s face it, most of your favorite YA contemporary male heroes will fall into one of these 3 categories. I’m really satisfied with the way Han wrote this relationship that feels as though it’s always evolving and not this you-are-my-soulmate-that-I-found-at-the-age-of-18-and-we-live-happily-ever-after type of relationship. I love them so much.
And of course, without a doubt, these books always come back to family. It’s bittersweet and ever changing. There is so much change happening around Lara Jean that she doesn’t really even notice. How Margot is now slowly living her own life in Scotland, how her Dad is marrying Ms. Rothschild, and how Kitty is growing up. And although Lara Jean is consistently changing and figuring out more things about herself, she will always fall back on her family and their support. Her mother is still an ever present force in her life and she’s always thinking about how her mom would approach a situation even as she is learning to find her own way.
I will always love these books, for their authenticity but also just for their feel-goodness and how they always bring a smile to my face. I know I will be swooning over Lara Jean’s mundane adventures for many more rereads.
Let me know if I should read Jenny Han’s Summer I Turned Pretty series. I’m not sure how it compares to this one so any advice is welcomed! And of course, let’s discuss this book in the comments because I need to vent.