Warning: this blog may contain spoilers!
Netflix just released the highly anticipated sequel to their 2018 hit film, To All the Boys I Loved Before, just in time for Valentine’s Day (smart move, Netflix), which picks up where Peter and Lara Jean left off, in the beginnings of their relationship. They go on their first date, and Lara Jean is amazed how their relationship is like a fairytale — but real. A dream that exists outside of her head. Lara Jean is falling in love with Peter, but she’s always been in love with love, so when she gets a response from John Ambrose McClaren, we see… well, as the book reads, “that complicates things” (211). John Ambrose is kind, funny, hardworking, and he volunteers— I mean, as my roommate said, “I want to read Harry Potter with him in the tree house!”
As Lara Jean reconnects with John Ambrose, we also see her and Peter’s own insecurities and pasts put a strain on their relationship. They go on a great first date, have their first Valentine’s Day, but Lara Jean can’t help but to wonder and compare their firsts to Peter and Gen’s (Peter’s ex-girlfriend and Lara Jean’s ex-best friend in middle school). We see Lara Jean daydream and process, and the film seems to focus on the tense balance between daydreams and reality.
While initially her relationship with Peter seems like a fairytale, audiences see past the kiss at the end of the first movie— that moment when they get together. We see them figure out that a deep, growing relationship means hearts will still be hurt. The couple also has very real conversations about firsts— from first dates to first talks of sex. We see their first fights as a couple and how they respond. These conversations are often a little awkward, but real and important.
We also see moments of fantasy as Lara Jean imagines both love interests talking to her, sings Ashe’s “Moral of the Story” to the camera, and even floats into the air with Peter at the end à la Grease. There’s a dreamlike moment in the snow with John Ambrose and Lara Jean dressed up, and despite audiences’ love for Peter Kavinsky, Lara Jean’s decision isn’t so clear. I appreciate that we see two love interests who are both realistic options for Lara Jean – neither would be a bad option. It’s important for young audiences to know that one’s first boyfriend may not be the one and only, and if they are, there will still be choices and complications to face together. It’s after John Ambrose and Lara Jean’s film-worthy kiss that the spell is broken, however, and Lara Jean knows it’s Peter. I truly applaud Jenny Han and this adaptation for showing some hard and awkward realities of dating.
Lara Jean’s friend, Lucas, brings up another harsh reality— as a gay high-schooler, he faces limited options. He points out that Lara Jean is lucky that she has to decide between love-interests, rather than just waiting for the “real world” where there will be more opportunities. While this tension isn’t further explored like it could have been, it’s still a hardship within high school romance that is often overlooked.
Dating is hard and giddy and awkward and dreamy and real. The last few words of the book put it this way, “this is the way it happened. This is the path we took. This is our story. I know now that I don’t want to love or be loved in half measures. I want it all, and to have it all, you have to risk it all… I’m in his arms, and we’re hugging and kissing, and we’re both shaking, because we both know – this is the night we become real” (336-337).
PRR Writer, Anna Gerwig
Pick up your own copy of the series today!