Book vs. Movie: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Though Jenny Han’s charming trilogy featuring endearing protagonist Lara Jean Song Covey was released quite some time ago, the first novel, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, has only recently been released as a movie on Netflix. The story, which follows Lara Jean(Lana Condor)’s mishaps in writing love letters to her crushes(that eventually get sent, much to her dismay), is a refreshing film in the rom-com genre.

The film adaptation, while slightly straying from the source material as movies tend to do, still managed to capture the whimsies and nuances of first love from the perspective of a relatable teenager. It’s extremely gratifying to see that the directors kept most of aspects of the book intact—author Jenny Han has been vocal about her difficulty finding a movie studio that would not whitewash her main character, who is half-Korean. Lana Condor, who plays Lara Jean, continues to speak out about the importance of Asian representation in media and pop culture.

The film, while keeping surprising fidelity to the source material, also veers off direction in its decision to cut out some of the scenes in the novel. While it would have been amazing to see those scenes brought to life, some of the things added in made up for it: the yogurt drinks, Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky(The Foster‘s Noah Centineo, who also appears in upcoming Netflix teen drama Sierra Burgess is a Loser)’s partygoing chemistry, and heart-to-hearts with Mr. Covey(including a laughable moment with Chris(Madeleine Arthur) in which she questions his profession as a gynecologist).

Ultimately, this is what can be said about most movie-book showdowns: the book was better, and To All the Boys is no exception. But, like Harry Potter, the movie version is just as excitable, if not more cinematic, and it’s truly incredible to see Asian-American characters who break the mold of dragon ladies and china dolls on-screen. Cue the applause for director Susan Johnson, and of course Jenny Han.

However, many people who’ve watched the movie have not read the book, and that’s okay. The movie as a standalone work is still worth your time, and you’ll find little bits of yourself in its characters. It’s utterly shining, heart-swelling, conscientious. After watching it, it’s clear that I for one won’t stop obsessing over it any time soon, and neither will its other numerous viewers. And, though the number of rom-coms I’ve watched in my lifetime is still in the low single-digits(I’m thinking maybe three), To All the Boys wins my heart as number one—an instant classic. Netflix did a good job with this one after the whole Kissing Booth debacle.

Anyway, I’ll be waiting for the sequel. While we’re at it, you should give it a try—as well as those yogurt drinks. Those are crazy good.

Esther H.