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.
Furyborn is a 2017 YA dark action/adventure novel by Claire Legrand. When two queens rise, the gate will fall. The story is told from two perspectives. There’s Rielle, a girl from Celdaria gifted with the power to control all the elements. After causing the fire that killed her mother when she was five years old, her father and a young member of the church, Tal, teach her how to hide and control it. One thousand years in the future, Eliana is living under the tyranny of the Undying Empire. She’s the Dread of Orline, a bounty hunter for the empire who tracks down its enemies. She’s skilled with a blade and a body that can heal from most damage. The story switches between their perspectives through the onset of war, rebellion, and self-discovery.
There are a ton of things I love about this book. I love how Legrand writes her characters. They were complex in ways that I haven’t encountered in a long time. Rielle and Eliana are the “heroes” of their respective narratives but they also deeply flawed and deeply human. Rielle, as she tries to earn the designation of the Sun Queen, tries to show herself as noble, pious, and in control to inspire her people as the threat of war looms over them. But she’s also impulsive and has an underlying darkness that tempts her towards vengeance and murder. Eliana describes herself as, first and foremost, a killer. She does what she has to do to survive and buries any feelings of compassion or guilt for her actions to prevent them from swallowing her. Even when faced with the consequences of her actions, she shows little remorse and even lashes out. The plot of both of these storylines hinges on the ascendency of a Sun Queen who will guide their people to light, and the Blood Queen who will bring ruin. They’re either one or the other. Perhaps both?
My main complaint with this story is that this story drags in a few places. When switching back and forth between both Rielle’s and Eliana’s perspectives, the stakes at times aren’t quite even. The trials are a good example of this. I found myself asking why these trials were important. They seemed more padding than anything. I was acutely aware that this story was the first part of a trilogy. Enough of a story to entice but not enough to satisfy. This wasn’t a major issue to my enjoyment of the overall narrative however and actually made me curious where the story would go.
Overall, I quite loved this story. I say pick up this book if you want to read a kickass story with lots of high action, high stakes, and an interesting cast of characters that experience it all.