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REVIEW: ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,’ Finally Gives Us A Realistic High School Story

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As an avid book reader, specifically of Young Adult fiction, I have a very specific set of rules when it comes to consuming any sort of film adaptations. The most important? Read the source material first.

So imagine my surprise when I threw all caution to the wind last week and settled in with my Netflix to watch “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” without first reading author Jenny Han’s YA novel. What was I thinking? How would not having a background affect my enjoyment of the movie?

All I knew was that everyone and their mama was talking about how good this movie was and I hadn’t seen this much mainstream hype for a YA movie since “The Fault in our Stars” days.

The premise of the movie is simple: Lara Jean Covey (played by Lana Condor), is a pretty quiet girl who much prefers reading romance novels than actually taking her chances on a potential relationship. She writes love letters she never sends to the boys she’s had crushes on. As she starts her junior year, her quiet reputation gets shattered as the letters she’s kept private from the world end up getting sent out to each boy.

As the movie unfolded I found myself mesmerized with not only how much I related to Lara Jean but also just the environment of the movie. Often times, movies depicting high school, especially modern-day ones, end up as a caricature of the reality. There are simple things in this movie that make it so relatable, from Lara being such a terrible driver that she’d rather just bike everywhere to the fact that instead of partying it up on the weekends, she’s at home chilling watching “Golden Girls” reruns with her younger sister.

Where this movie really excels when compared to other teen movies is the fact that it really takes the time to treat its characters as real people and not movie tropes. Here, Lara is a shy quiet girl who over the course of the movie becomes more confident, but never gets a “makeover” that makes her change who she is on the outside. While her friends and family encourage her to become more extroverted, she’s never pressured to try and become loud or confident in order to try and attract the attention.

Instead, we see the popular jock character, Peter (played by Noah Centineo) fall for her how she is. Even his character is allowed to be vulnerable and emotional. We see him write her love notes and take interest in her as well.

Another great storyline in this movie is one dealing with Laura’s family. She’s adjusting to life with her older sister Margot (Janel Parrish) going off to college and the sadness she feels about her mother’s passing. So often in movies there are storylines focused on teenagers having complicated relationships with their families. It’s refreshing to see a narrative where the sisterhood between the Covey sisters is so strong and celebrated. Which isn’t to say they love each other all the time. They are times when they hide things from each other or want to tear out each other’s throats, but there also times where they get to sit and reflect on how all these new life changes are really affecting them affecting them.

Overall, “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” is amazing and it really gets a chance to shine through in how simple it is. It’s a classic coming of age high school story that you’ve seen before, but this time it’s just actually realistic. There are no one dimensional, cliched characters and no major unrealistic status quo changes. But rather, it’s a small scale story about a girl pushing to discover new things about herself.

By the time the movie is over, you’ll have fallen in love with everyone from the love interest to the best friends Lara Jean and Josh (played by Israel Broussard). This movie has something in it for everyone and once it’s over, you’ll find yourself instantly wanting to re-watch it with a group of friends.

Lyric, 17, believes that animation is the most creative storytelling medium and has a Spotify playlist ready for any and every situation.

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