There be spoilers, however, slight below. You’ve been warned!
I was tempted to be upset with All the Boys I’ve Loved Before when I finished it. The book just ends with no major resolution to love plot line.
After a good day of stewing, I took a step back and asked myself, ‘What was the point of the book?’ Not in a derisive way but in a general curious way. What did the author want to accomplish or what was supposed to shine through for the characters? Was the point for Lara Jean to end up with someone or was it something more than that. I reflected on how she changed over the course of the narrative and whether her main narrative still works without tying up this important knot.
Lara Jean lives in a world of fantasy. She has fanciful ideas of love and romance. She writes love letters to dispel crushes, locking her feeling away with pen and paper and a vintage hat box. But over the course of the narrative, her notions of love are complicated. When her deepest feelings are revealed to those boys of the past, they’re dredged up again. This is further complicated by her relationship with her older sister, Margot, the reality of hour relationships change and evolve, high school politics–the works! It’s through this whirlwind of events that she snags herself a ‘pretend’ boyfriend to ward off another. She gets to know her heart and the complexities therein.
The ending, in this context, makes sense. Lara Jean ends the book with a vague sadness. During the time of beginnings that is the New Year, she couldn’t explain why she was sad to her younger sister, Kitty. During the course of the narrative, Lara Jean emotionally matured. And that maturity leads to the inevitable truth that nothing ever lives up to fantasy. Doesn’t make it any less amazing or beautiful in its own way but it does disabuse you of notions of the perfect romance and happily ever after.
I used to tell myself that I just wasn’t into romance novels, movies, etc. But All the Boys I’ve Loved Before made me root for a romance that was fraught and made me sad that I didn’t get it. The book recognizes the bittersweetness of relationships, not just romantic ones. It made me crave more and that is the ultimate compliment I could give to a book, nay, any piece of media.