movie reviews · Uncategorized

Mini Movie Reviews: Summer Movies

Wonder Woman | Directed by Patty Jenkins | Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine | B

It’s hard to live up to the expectation of being the most anticipated movie of the year. I can say that Wonder Woman both lived up to and disappointed those expectations. And I Image result for wonder woman movie posterthink in the movie’s essence, Jenkins really understood who Wonder Woman is at the core. She is someone who is a little naive and idealistic but ultimately resiliently caring and kind and that is who Wonder Woman has been since her inception in 1941. So even though the pacing was a little clunky and it falls into the same traps of typical superhero movies like a predictable and obvious villain and side characters that are not developed enough to be memorable, it still felt true to its heroine. What is slightly different is that Jenkins at least allows the development of small character moments both serious and humorous making sure that the small details about these characters are not slipping through. Just the small lines about babies and ice cream is enough to establish a baseline for the character. Of course, that allows the interactions between Wonder Woman and Steven Trevor to shine through and it was honestly where a lot of the humor came from. I do wish they had done a better job of establishing why Wonder Woman is the way she is. The way they portrayed her made it seem as if she was born like this; I wish they had showed some sort of catalyst. And I think sometimes she jumps a little too quickly to violence even though a big part of her character is showing mercy and kindness to all. Like any summer blockbuster, it’s not all about the characters, Wonder Woman revels in the dramatic and slow motion stylized action moments which is probably why the action sequences were some of the best parts of the entire movie. They felt adequately long and really built on each moment instead of being one long overdrawn battle sequence.  My forever favorite scene is when Wonder Woman walks into No Man’s Land to block the bullets and clear the way for the rest of the soldiers to come through. If anything else, Wonder Woman is inspirational precisely because, however cheesy it is, it is ultimately committed to its sincerity and that makes up for a lot of its flaws.

Everything, Everything | Directed by Stella Meghie | Starring Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson | C

Look, this is just not a good movie. Plain and simple. The entire movie felt like one long awkward conversation with excruciating pauses between dialogue and long, silent stares that last minutes too long. One of the biggest pitfalls of the movie is failing to establish aImage result for everything everything movie poster sense of chemistry and urgency. In a movie, if you are going to tell a romantic story about a couple, you must, must, must take the time to establish the individual characters first. I knew a lot about Maddy throughout but I don’t really know anything about Ollie. At all really. What are his dreams, his desires, his motivations, his fears? Without them, he has been spit out from the generic boyfriend machine. Even her mother who has a side role in the movie had better development than him. I wish I could see what the screenwriter of this movie was thinking because the dialogue felt so misplaced most of the time. Cheesy lines felt even cheesier than usual and serious lines were just plain hilarious. On top of that, they failed to establish a relationship between the two characters mostly due to the mediocre writing. So when climactic events occur, you can bet I did not feel a single thing and it’s not because I have a heart of stone this time. But more than that, there is no sense of real danger; I never thought for a second Maddy was in any danger of dying from SCID (and I haven’t read the book), and therefore, no real sense of loss and ultimately growth for these characters. I suppose if you’re in the right mood for a dramatic teen love story, I suppose you can watch this and have a good laugh but otherwise I recommend a hard pass.

Dunkirk | Directed by Christopher Nolan | Starring Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy | B

Dunkirk is the latest of Nolan’s impressive filmography so I expected nothing less than something stellar. I suppose maybe I am too used to blockbuster war movies (the last one I saw was Hacksaw Ridge) or other stylized ones in general. And while I appreciate the Image result for dunkirkcraft behind making this film, it was more apparent to me that the story lacked something. It starts off intriguing, a young soldier walking through a deserted neighborhood and for the first some 30 minutes after he almost barely speaks a word of dialogue. For the most part, this provides a sense of mystery, you don’t know this boy’s (I don’t think his name is ever mentioned) motivations, his desires, his fears. I suppose those things aren’t needed for a movie that is about, as Nolan states himself, survival. How he portrays the characters is at once it’s biggest strength but also it’s biggest weakness. Nolan flits between characters and their perspectives for a time before flitting back to another character. And even though I usually love that careful attention on small character moments, this time I wasn’t as satisfied with it. Usually in war films, there’s a period where the soldiers will reveal parts of their lives before they became a soldier and it turns into a point of emotional investment from the audience to the character but here we don’t get that. But even if we did not get the back story I would have at least wanted a better sense of motivation and desire. The characters just feel like faces in the crowd. And if Nolan wanted to portray survival, I think he only touched on surface level facets of survival that could have been explored deeper. There is no doubt that Nolan still knows how to craft a movie in his exact vision. The cinematography follows those frequent over the shoulder shots and careful time on small character moments. And of course, Hans Zimmer once again does an excellent of creating suspenseful and tension filled pieces to fill in the scenes. Maybe I wasn’t able to look too hard into the details. There’s also this sense of build up that continually builds up during the movie but there is no sense of that build up leading to anything significant or poignant at the end. Maybe that was the point, after all, in war, there is no discrimination and no time to focus on the individual, but if so, I think it could have been executed better.

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book review · Uncategorized

Book Review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

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Author: Heather Demetrios

Pages: 320

Synopsis: Goodreads

Genre: YA Comtemporary

Series? Standalone

Rating: tealstartealstartealstartealstar

 


It’s easy to judge someone for being in an abusive relationship and that judgement is usually tagged along with the age-old question, “Why doesn’t she just leave him?” If someone is hurting you physically and verbally isn’t the obvious solution to just leave them right away? Just say the words, right? But as this book deftly illustrates, it is neither easy or simple.

Grace Carter doesn’t have the best life. She lives with a cruel and demanding stepfather and a mother who pours all the housework and chores on her. All she wants to do is get out of Birch Grove, California and do theater in New York. Gavin is the ultimate dream boy. He is an angsty teenage boy who plays the guitar. He’s popular and charismatic. Grace has had an unrequited crush on him for 3 years and he has never noticed her before until one day. What starts as a passionate and sweet relationship spirals into a relationship unhealthy, obsessive, and claustrophobic.

What I appreciate most about this story’s structure besides its crafty use of the second person is its deliberate slowness. Demetrios really paints a detailed picture to helping you understand why Grace would fall in love with someone like Gavin even as you know from the very beginning how the relationship will end. The eventual deterioration of the relationship was perfectly paced. What is so poignant is how Demetrios sets up the relationship because it starts off like any other happy and healthy relationship. Gavin is sweet and dotes on Grace. He writes songs about how much he loves her. He is emotionally and physically supportive of her when things at home are too overwhelming. He makes sacrifices for her. Demetrios captures that euphoria of being in a new relationship when everything feels fresh and new and full of love and possibility. When the sweet nothings feel even sweeter and every compliment makes you feel like you’re on cloud 9. So it’s understandable when the first red flags come Grace does not even notice them especially when they are wrapped under the guise of toxic manipulation. The progression of the relationship really shows how Grace, someone who has big dreams and a sense of individualism can ultimately give all those up for a relationship. With the psychological effects of her home, there is no doubt there was something so intoxicating about Gavin needing her but the even more intoxicating feeling of Gavin wanting her. A person who has, her whole life, never felt wanted.

What makes this book so much more real than other books about abusive relationships is how Demetrios portrays Grace’s self-awareness of her toxic situation juxtaposed with her utter ignorance and denial of Gavin’s bright red flags. The most recent book I’ve read about an abusive relationship is It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover which I thought failed to examine the nuances of a relationship like this. I get what she was trying to do but it was not enough. It is possible to love someone but know that they are toxic for you but Hoover made it black and white, that you can just leave him if you set your mind to it. It’s about resolve. But Demetrios knows it’s about more than resolving to break up with him. Grace knows she should break up with Gavin and resolves many times to do so but she always ends up making excuses for him or Gavin will end up manipulating her love for him and she would get sucked back in time and time again. This constant cycle of denial and resolve, resolve and denial is exactly the cycle that abusive relationships go in, feeding through the doubts and insecurities of both participants. The reader sees how the love and sacrifice that Gavin demonstrates for her at the beginning of the relationship is now used as a shackle to rein her in. You know precisely how Gavin is manipulating her yet you understand how Grace would be confused by this manipulation and ultimately Gavin himself thinks he is doing the best for her even when he so clearly isn’t. This reflects on the cyclical nature of abuse, further emphasized by Grace’s mother who also is in an abusive relationship that Grace herself constantly laments is abusive while she is her relationship with Gavin. How can someone who is continuing to witness the abusive relationship of a loved one be completely oblivious to the fact that she’s in one herself?

On a side note, as with most YA contemporary I’ve read, there’s always the issue of how well integrated the side characters. And although Demetrios does not go into their characters in depth, it is clear they feel lived in and not just used as plot devices for specific parts of the Grace’s journey. Grace’s two best friends provide much needed comic relief and are the supportive friends you would want yourself. Even her cruel stepfather is offered moments of humanity that don’t turn him into an evil machine for the sole purpose of making Grace’s life miserable (although I’m sure in Grace’s situation it feels like it a lot). His role extends to her mother and how that affects Grace in turn.

I am fully impressed with Demetrios’s writing and although I can see how her writing could spiral into YA contemporary cliches like in I’ll Meet You There, I think if she writes more YA contemporary realistic, I am most definitely on board. The way she writes psychological progression and nuanced feelings made concrete to a T is something I truly admired. The use of the second person, as if Grace was addressing Gavin in a letter, makes you feel the impending doom of their relationship, the mix of blunt sarcasm and irony tinged with real sadness.

I highly recommend this book for its subject matter but also the deft way it is handled with all of its nuances.

On another side note, I’m back (!) which I’ll explain more in another post but I do plan on posting at least once a week from now on.

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mini book review · Uncategorized

Mini Book Reviews: YA Contemporary

Obviously I never stick to what I say cause I’m already posting before I said my hiatus was over. I’m here with a blog post yay..Who even knows my mind. I’m here to review 3 recently hyped YA contemporary books. I really need to stop giving into the hype train because none of these contemporaries lived up to my expectations but they were cute nonetheless.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (3/5)

Molly is a virgin and has never been kissed. She wonders if she is inherently unlovable. Image result for the upside of unrequitedShe wonders how someone gets 1 person to like them let alone many like her sister Cassie. But all that changes when she gets a job at at an antique store and meets Reid.. I think this book gets a lot of things right in some ways. It perfectly captures what it’s like to feel left behind relationship wise, how it feels to be totally clueless and immature when it comes to sex and relationships. Her inner thoughts throughout the book reflect this constant insecurity that is kind of narcissistic but ultimately relatable at the same time. I do think that the side characters had a lot of potential like Hipster Will, her moms, and even Cassie but they never quite reached it. Although very diverse, they lacked a sense of presence and personality other than their obligated roles. But all of this is fine except Becky Albertalli’s writing has nothing to offer itself. It is overtly simple to the point of boredom. I wish the relationship between Cassie and Molly was explored more. TUoU’s main theme is one of self-confidence and self-acceptance but Molly’s journey to self-confidence immediately resolves itself after she kisses someone. Poof fixed..  I wanted more of an exploration of her insecurities surrounding her weight, her anxiety etc. the romance was ok even if the love interest was slightly lackluster. But it was serviceable and pretty cute and I didn’t hate it so there’s that.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston (2.5/5)

As you have no doubt guessed from the title, Geekerella is a Cinderella retelling following Ella who is a fangirl of the show Starfield (which is essentially Star Trek) and she has a blog talking about all things Starfield. Starfield is getting a reboot movie and the main actor just so happens to be Darien Freeman whom Ella hates for the main role.Image result for geekerella She writes a heated blog post about it and the story ensues from there. I have to be honest, I mostly wanted to read this book for the fandom aspect and you can certainly tell the author is a fangirl herself. She understands all the machinations behind conventions and blogs and online fandom. I liked that part the best even though there was less of that aspect than you would expect. I also have to be honest and say I’m not really a fan of Cinderella retellings mostly because I always feel the stepmother and stepsisters are so cartoonishly evil, it’s almost laughable. I felt the same way about the stepfamily in this one and I, in fact, think they’re not even as bad as real human beings can be (which tbh is kind of sad to think about but it’s true). They’re superficial and say mean stuff but I didn’t feel hurt when they insulted her because there was no sense of nuance or half-baked motivation for their actions. I also felt as if Ella as a main character was boring af and that’s mostly due to the fact that she was not very proactive in making her own decisions in her own life. Even the cosplay she was going to enter into Excelsicon was not really even her idea. This book also suffers from a case of instalove. They text each other and begin to fall in love because they understand Starfield references together and that’s it?? Also this is a side note but I am so sick of how convenient getting into college is for YA protagonists is. Mild spoilers but basically Ella gets accepted into UCLA because a film professor really liked her blog and basically pulled strings for her..

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (3/5)

When Dimple Met Rishi is about two Indian-American teens who end up at the same web design summer camp called Insomnia Con. Dimple does not know that her parents have Image result for when dimple met rishian arranged marriage planned for her (and if she did she would be furious, she has no time for that tradition and only wants to start designing her app) with her IIH (Ideal Indian Husband). The potential Ideal Indian Husband in question is Rishi who is perfectly aware of this arrangement and is perfectly fine with it as well. He is the traditional, reserved, and practical first son after all. Misunderstandings happen, they meet up and it goes from there. Although I wish it had gone into more detail, I did enjoy the exploration of arranged marriages, of expectations with traditional parents and that ultimate conflict of values between parents and children as they grow up. What I didn’t like as much is the instalove between Dimple Met Rishi. Their initial conversations were a little trite and ultimately did not convince me. After the initial meeting, Rishi already thought she had the best eyes in the entire world (cool story bro).  Dimple was portrayed to be this really fierce and outspokenly feminist character but Rishi ended up being the more outspoken one..weirdly enough even though he was suppose to be the more reserved one. In all honesty, Dimple was basically like most YA contemporary heroines, she’s “not like other girls” who worry about boys and doesn’t do frivolous things like her roommate Celia. Also Rishi was a little too perfect. If you read my Alex Approximately review, Rishi is the nice guy. This book is also dual perspective which was interesting reading because one thought that Dimple would have would bleed into Rishi’s thought process. I wish the relationship between Dimple and her mom was explored more. Her mom is more interested in how Dimple looks than what Dimple was actually doing in Insomnia Con. But it was solved so conveniently in the end. There was no sense of real conflict in this book, even in Dimple and Rishi’s relationship from her not “doing” relationships (I haven’t heard that before), to long distance relationships to being too “domestic”. None of these themes served as real conflicts.

Also the whole Bollywood dance thing was very trite. And also, again with the whole unrealistic getting into college part. Repeat after me: You cannot get into college just from one person’s good word!!!

Let me know if the hype train got to you and you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them =)

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Uncategorized

Hiatus

So I haven’t posted in about two weeks and I had a lot of posts planned out for May and June but almost none of them have come to fruition. I’ve just had a busy month in May and  will probably have an even busier month in June so instead of worrying about posting something every week, I’ve decided to just take a break from blogging. Even though I have the motivation and the inspiration to write posts, for now, I lack the patience and dedication to write them and make headers that I’m proud of. But I’m still reading, nothing has changed on that front. I’ll still be on my Goodreads for the duration of my hiatus so you can reach me there or if you want to see what I’m reading. I will also be checking my comments from time to time. I will most likely be back in mid or late July this year. Thanks for sticking with my blog and my erratic schedule. I’ll see you soon!

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tv review · Uncategorized

TV Review: Master of None Season 2

Image result for master of none season 2 poster

Title: Master of None

Season: 2

Created by: Aziz Ansari & Alan Yang

Episodes: 10 (S2)

Starring: Aziz Ansari, Eric Wareheim, Lena Waithe, Kelvin Yu, Alessandro Mastronardi

Rating: A

MILD SPOILERS FOR SEASON 1

 


I’ve never seen a comedy quite like Master of None. I don’t even know if comedy is the right way to describe Season 2. It still feels like a comedy albeit in a very dry and sometimes satirical way but it’s barely even funny. However, it was definitely not afraid to push the boundaries of TV style and combined with its incredible sense of intimacy and its wise notes on relationships and connection, it comes out all the more unique and better for it.

We left Season 1 when Dev and Rachel ended their relationship and Dev makes the split second decision to go to Italy to learn more about pasta making. Right off the bat, we see a unique change in TV style. The entire first episode is shot in black and white, lending itself to old vintage films and the stereotypical romance of Italy. And subsequently it follows him as he goes back to New York to resume his acting career and his search to find a connection with someone. What continues to strike me about MoN is how much it meanders. There will be several scenes in one episode of him sharing good food with good friends. It’s most likely just them saying how good the food is. Usually, I hate it when shows lack focus and have no sense of where they are going but that aspect was oddly charming in MoN. It felt authentic and confident. It felt like a coming-of-age that just shows you how much you can grow and change even when it seems you’re a 30 some year old man who is adulting and suppose to have all your shit together.

Dev gets a gig hosting Clash of Cupcakes (a satire of cooking shows) and while it pays the bills, he struggles to find emotional fulfillment from it. Similarly he tries to find fulfillment in his relationships as well even when dating in the social media world is messy, weird, and overly complicated for its own good. In the first episode he meets someone who he has a connection with but unfortunately gets his phone stolen and cannot contact her again. In a standout episode with a wonderful editing style, Dev is on a date with someone he met on a dating app and he asks the question “How many siblings do you have?”. She answers and then the scene seamlessly cuts to several other first dates he’s had answering the same question conveying the rote dryness of first dates but also the feeling of euphoria when you have found someone you have an automatic connection with.

Many of the episodes focus on Dev’s pursuit of love but it also doesn’t gloss over his friends’ lives as well. In another standout episode and probably my favorite one of the entire season, was “Thanksgiving” which chronicles some Thanksgivings in Dev’s life from 1990-2017 which he always happens to celebrate at Denise’s house with her mother, aunt and grandmother. The growth that Denise goes through in this half hour is something else. Her relationship between her mom and grandmother, her relationship with Dev and her relationship with her girlfriends are all flawlessly woven throughout this episode. They have definitely shown an original coming-out story. When Denise comes out to her mom, it is so intimate and emotional but it is not an all consuming event. It does not feel like an ultimatum, a do or die, but an expected confession made in a diner. Even if you don’t like this show, I guarantee you will like these two episodes.

As with Season 1, Season 2 eventually starts focusing on Dev’s relationship with this one woman that he has a connection with. It does deal with infidelity and I was worried it was going to fall into cliche territory but, without giving away spoilers it didn’t. I think most of that has to do with how Dev’s and Francesca’s relationship progresses. It wasn’t obvious, at least to me, who Dev’s “Rachel” was going to be this season. I think it sometimes veers into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory but it’s still respectful to its characters and their point of view.

Still from Master of None's season 2 on Netflix

I love the show’s ultra dry humor that you sometimes can’t tell is suppose to be funny or not. The show also an ode to the place he resides in which is the one and only New York with all the celebration of the diversity that exists in NY. These 10 episodes span from half an hour to an hour and a half flawlessly stylizing its cinematography to match the tone of each episode.

He has made so many relatable observations about what it’s like to live in the modern world. It’s really the uncertainty that Dev feels that really carries this show. The uncertainty of his feelings for Francesca and when he knows it, the uncertainty of how to continue a relationship with her, the uncertainty of his friends’ romantic lives (shouldn’t they be married by now? they wonder) and this uncertainty over this need for a connection with someone amidst the superficiality of small talk and the like. At the end of “The Dinner Party”,  Dev and Francesca are taking an Uber back to their respective places and after Francesca departs, we spend 3 minutes just on Dev as the Uber takes him home with only the sound of the car as noise and a curt “bye” as the only piece of dialogue. It is instantly relatable and fiercely intimate at the same time.

MoN was, if anything, even better than Season 1 because it was discusses the same topics of Season 1 but expresses them in riskier ways that just work. It’s a must watch.

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Monthly Favorites · Uncategorized

April Favorites 2017

I think April is turning out to my lucky month because for the past 3 years, judging from my monthly favorites post, nothing especially bad seems to happen. I wish I could stay cocooned in April for a few more months but shit is already starting to catch up to me so gotta deal with that somehow.

Coincidentally, last April, I posted hiking pictures and this year I’m doing the same thing with 2 of my friends. This hike didn’t count as a hike so much as it was a stroll through some well-worn sandy paths with 1 “steep” hill but considering my level of physical activity on a daily basis, it was just right.

 

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Spot the human in the picture.

 

It’s kind of a tradition for us to get ramen whenever we hang out so that’s always a plus even though the ramen was salty af. But on to more food, I tried Dunkin Donuts for the first time..and was disappointed although the cronuts would have been sooooo much better had there not been peanut butter on it just saying.

My friend recently got accepted into medical school and I’m so happy for her. We went out to celebrate with other friends. We went to this nice place with a really nice view of the beach.

 

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Please summer, give me opportunities to wear this pretty romper.

 

I have one podcast favorite for April and it’s so good. I first discovImage result for the bright sessionsered this through Evi @ Adventuring Through Pages where she talks about her favorite fictional dramas that’s told through podcasts and this one sounded really interesting to me and it’s so good. You need to listen to it.  It’s called The Bright Sessions and essentially it follows a therapist as she records her sessions with her clients who all have supernatural abilities. Each episode follows a session with a different person with a different ability and then it repeats with the same people. As we move along through the episodes, we start to question the therapist’s motives and we find out there is a bigger and darker story arc than we initially thought. I really liked the different abilities. There’s a person who can time travel, another who can sense the emotions of other people etc. etc. Highly recommended.

Of course, I have some music favorites this month.

  • Fine – Taeyeon

Cheers to yet another Taeyeon hit. I continue to love her voice more and more with every new song. Also her music videos are always A+’s imo.

  • I’m the One – DJKhaled & Justin Beiber ft. Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne

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The music video is stupid and the lyrics are dumb but I could never resist a catchy song. I’m basic ok?

  • Chocolate – The 1975
  • Sing Street soundtrack – John Carney

The Sing Street soundtrack is so damn catchy and inspirational. Even though it’s feel-good, the lyrics are so well thought out and not cliche at all. If you like ’80’s music, it’s a must listen.

  • Making Me Feel Alright – Bjorkman Pupavac feat. Robin Lundbeck

The perfect summer beach/pool song.

  • The Spring – Jeong Eun Ji

Enuji’s songs are something you’d find in a hipster coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon. It’s so tranquil and soothing it’s impossible not to like. I’m so happy her solo albums have been so distinctly her and I can’t wait to hear more from her.

  • Dream in a Dream – Ten (NCT)

There’s no mistaking the ancient Asian music influences on this song but the combination of that and the more modern pop influences make this song unique. Also Ten’s dancing is so good and his vocals are not too shabby either 😉

  • Most Girls by Hailee Steinfeld

Hailee Steinfeld is my queen. I completely loved her performance in The Edge of Seventeen as well as Pitch Perfect 2 and this song was pretty much the icing on the cake. In the popular pop music world, toxic messages of girls and women are so rampant and this song is an antidote to all that. She celebrates women and all their differences and it’s beautiful. Why can’t there be more songs on the radio like this? And with an electro-pop catchiness to it?

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book review · Uncategorized

Book Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Image result for always and forever lara jean Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Author: Jenny Han

Pages: 336

Series? Yes (Final book in a trilogy)

Synopsis: Goodreads

Rating: 4/5

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.

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University of Virginia campus

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.

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