“Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends. Life couldn’t be more perfect! At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news. Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
Hoo boy. Now that I’ve finally finished this series, I feel extremely relived. I mentioned in my post about P.S. I Still Love You that I was only planning to read this book because I had already purchased it and I just wanted to finish what I’d started. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s the truth.
When I read the synopsis for Always and Forever, Lara Jean I was glad to see that something was finally going to happen that would shake up Lara Jean’s world. I think we all know by now what a sheltered teenager she is, and the synopsis alluded to something really significant happening in her life.
Folks, the life shattering thing that happens is that she doesn’t get into her first choice college. Yep. When I reached that point in the book I thought, that’s it? That’s the thing? What happens next is not Lara Jean “rethinking all her plans” but her doing nothing about anything until it’s almost too late.
She awkwardly throws herself into wedding planning for her dad and Trina, which I think the reader is supposed to find endearing, but I didn’t. It made her seem even more immature and childlike. While I did tear up a little at her dad’s wedding, because the whole thing was just so sweet, I wasn’t as blown away by the ending as I hoped I would be.
Some specific things I didn’t like…
- Lara Jean was made to feel that her future with Peter was resting entirely on her shoulders and not his; why couldn’t Peter’s mom sit them both down rather than corner her alone and tell her it’s up to her? Once again, as with the previous book, she is made to believe that she is in the driver’s seat of their relationship and all the decisions rest on her shoulders.
- Lara Jean pressuring Peter to reach out to his dad without knowing a thing about what it feels like to have divorced parents, guilting him into thinking it would be the right thing to do, and having no sense of what the consequences of that might be was cringey. I get that she’s a teenager, but the holier than thou aspect of her making him think everything would be find if he just did what she thought was right did not gel with me.
- The speed with which Lara Jean and Kitty accept Trina into their home and their lives didn’t seem realistic to me. Even though they have all known her for years and the relationship she develops with their dad was somewhat gradual, there was a scene where Trina is sprawled out on Lara Jean’s bed, barefoot, talking with her and Kitty and I just thought, this relationship is awfully chummy out of nowhere.
Honestly, from the very beginning this book felt like it was all about Peter. In fact, the very first sentence is about Lara Jean obsessing over his face! But since we never get to see his side of things, all I can do is judge Lara Jean and her actions which I thought were frequently problematic and made me not feel one way or the other about her. Meanwhile, Peter gets the benefit of the doubt in all situations because he pulls back, avoids her until she is ready to make amends, and we never see his side of things. I kept thinking about how we get the dueling narratives of Natasha and Daniel in The Sun is Also a Star and how much more I cared about those characters because I actually got to know them both on a deep level, whereas everything in this series felt very surface level.
The Series Overall
Objectively speaking I thought this was a good series as a whole. It’s cute and fluffy and definitely has its moments. As I have mentioned before, I couldn’t relate to Lara Jean at all and have never been able to. I rarely found myself rooting for her. I don’t even think it’s a matter of having expectations of a teenage character that aren’t realistic; it was just a matter of her not being a character that I was able to see myself in or sympathize with as much as I would have liked. Based on other reviewer’s comments, I know am not alone in this thought.
But, would I recommend this series? Yes. That might be surprising based on everything I just said, but I read these books when I needed a break from reality and needed something light. They served that purpose and then some (as have the movies) so I wouldn’t consider it a waste of time at all. I know there are people out there who truly love these books and that makes me happy, because everyone should have a book that they love and gets them jazzed! This just wasn’t the case for me.