This practically begged to be reread after watching the end credit scene of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (all my rambling thoughts and ravings for
Noah and Lana the film are here). And after too many interviews featuring Noah Centineo with puppies, I had to succumb to rereading this follow-up book.
Back in 2015 when I had first gotten into reading extensively, this was the first sequel I remember desperately craving to have in my hands. This contemporary series arrived at the perfect time, as well, having just completed the Harry Potter series for the first time (!!), it was the perfect light-hearted read to mend my book hangover.
However, given that it’s been three years since I first read the book, my recollection was hazy on the particular events and happenings circling Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky. So it was fun to rediscover that the particular plot points at the end of TATBILB film are what propels this book forward: the hot tub Instagram baddie scene, and the infamous Peter K. line:
Peter laughs easily; he cups my cheek in his hand. “Are you planning on breaking my heart, Covey?”
I do have to say, though, it was nearly impossible not to compare and contrast movie Peter to book Peter, and having the latter come up short nearly every time. I perpetually felt like book Peter came across quite juvenile and unsure of himself, yet likes to project the vibe to everyone that he’s Cool, like a typical high school boy… I vividly remember the scene of their first date in the book where he accidentally hits LJ’s right boob and his response, “Whoops. Sorry. Are you okay?” felt like worlds away from his adapted movie persona. Movie Peter had this confident, reassuring, yet vulnerable side to him that makes it hard not to root for him. The foundation lies in scenes like this:
But Peter doesn’t kiss me, not the way I expect. He kisses me on my left cheek, and then my right; his breath is warm. And then nothing. My eyes fly open. Is this a literal kiss-off? Why isn’t he kissing me properly? “What are you doing?” I whisper.
“Building the anticipation.”
It also feels like Lara Jean is simply way in over her head with this new Peter situation (it’s not fake-dating, but it’s not real dating, and it’s casual but it’s not…). There are so many questions circling her head since this is her first real-deal relationship, but Peter seems lightyears away from noticing. In the book Fangirl, Levi, upon sensing Cath’s hesitations and slight panic about what “going up to his room” entails, makes sure she knows she’s in control for what’s on the table and what’s off it.
“There was never a threat of things going too far when we were fake. But I see now how fast things can change without you even realizing it. It can go from a kiss to hands under my shirt in two seconds, and it’s so feverish, so frenzied. It’s like we’re on a high-speed train that’s going somewhere fast, and I like it, I do, but I also like a slow train where I can look out the window and appreciate the countryside, the buildings, the mountains. It’s like I don’t want to miss the little steps; I want it to last. And then the next second I want to grow up faster, more, now. To be as ready as everyone else is. How is everyone else so ready?
I still find it very surprising, having a boy in my personal space.”
Flashes back at “my personal space” to Noora and William in Skam
Thankfully, the new contract between LJ and Peter was established soon enough, covering things that will make them settle in more comfortably with this new level-up. Yet it was disheartening to see that Lara Jean still felt like she couldn’t broach the topic of Gen and Peter. It’s difficult to build a relationship without fundamental trust in the other person, especially with their initial foundation of lies and fiction. Like, every good thing that happens is soured by the news or idea of Genevieve in LJ’s head: the first date goes great until Gen is in the same movie theatre, or their meal after that same date is easy breezy until Lara Jean doubts whether or not he’s texting his ex when she goes to the bathroom, and those same old thoughts creep in when they’re spooning for the first time. These things can be cleared up by voicing your doubts, seeing their reaction, and having a healthy and lengthy discussion. Again, the Genevieve situation illustrates the point well of showcasing the less mature side of Peter. Talk it out with your current girlfriend, explain what ground you stand on together.
My one gripe with this series is that building a relationship on the doom of the last one doesn’t seem wise karma-wise, which is why Peter K. thrived in book one when it’s only fake-dating, but this sequel seemed to dive into his less admirable moments (he’s practically the antagonist towards the end). So I jumped readily onto no-baggage John Ambrose in P.S. I Still Love You.
But I do have to say, putting all the above aside, that Lara Jean’s heart eyes for Peter at the very start was definitely infectious and made me reminisce on all the good memories that come along with having a crush (like the thrill of seeing them unexpectedly just when you’re thinking of them), instead of all the bad parts my brain expertly suppresses.
“Sometimes I like you so much I can’t stand it. It fills up inside me, all the way to the brim, and I feel like I could overflow. I like you so much I don’t know what to do with it. My heart beats so fast when I know I’m going to see you again. And then, when you look at me the way you do, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.”
Now with that little rant aside, here are some of my must-talk-about-right-now points in P.S. I Still Love You, in case the sequel film is confirmed and I can come back to this extensive review:
- First and foremost, I have to give it all to the Song girls. They make this book shine for me, especially with Margot at the head. She keeps this family glued together, which is why I’m perpetually flabbergasted at her University choice all the way in Scotland, having to subsequently leave LJ in the heat of things. She’s such a good sister, and I don’t know how she can bear to be so far away from her family. On a lighter note: Book Kitty is SO MUCH FUNNIER than Movie Kitty. Sister swear.
“Margot’s peering at it, head tilted. “No, it really doesn’t. It just looks like . . .”
“Like a hot makeout,” Chris supplies.
“Right,” Margot agrees. “Just a hot makeout.”
“You guys swear?”
In unison they say, “We swear.”
“Kitty?” I ask.
She bites her lip. “It looks like sex to me, but I’m the only one here besides you who’s never had sex, so what do I know?” Margot lets out a gasp. “Sorry, I read your diary.” Margot swats at her, and Kitty crawls away fast like a crab.”
Kitty’s “Sorry, I read your diary” made me laugh out loud. Also: her dedication to her shows and watching them uninterrupted is something else entirely. Having those scenes where Lara Jean’s sisters have her back – no questions asked – got me so good.
Kitty celebrating ten years made me quite wistful, as well.
“Kitty’s cares are still manageable; they can fit in the palm of my hand. I like that she still depends on me for things. Her cares and her needs make me forget my own. I like that I am needed, that I am beholden to somebody. This breakup with Peter, it’s not as big as Katherine Song Covey turning ten. She has sprung up like a weed, without a mother, just two sisters and a dad. That is no small feat. That’s something extraordinary.
But ten, wow. Ten isn’t a little girl anymore. It’s right in between. The thought of her getting older, outgrowing her toys, her art set . . . it makes me feel a bit melancholy. Growing up really is bittersweet.”
I feel this deeply.
- There’s a new level of shared intimacy Lara Jean and Peter dive into, and they’re pretty cute at the start:
“Peter! You can’t be here!” I am equal parts panicky and excited. I don’t know if a boy has ever been in my room before, not since Josh, and that was ages ago.
He’s already taking off his shoes. “Just let me stay for a few minutes.”
I cross my arms because I’m not wearing a bra and say, “If it’s only a few minutes, why are you taking off your shoes?”
He dodges this question. Plopping down on my bed, he says, “Hey, why aren’t you wearing your Amish bikini? It’s so hot.” I move to slap him upside the head, and he grabs my waist and hugs me to him. He buries his head in my stomach like a little boy. His voice muffled, he says, “I’m sorry all this is happening because of me.”
It’s moments like this that make me question why his character went so downhill in this sequel.
- Full disclosure, when I first read P.S. I Still Love You, I was team John all the way. It’s his letters that finally released the giggles out of me within reading this book. He’s such a sweet, kind boy.
Also, the peak of romance hits for me is in this moment:
“There was this one time I looked out the window and saw that John McClaren was up in the tree house alone. He was just sitting by himself, reading. So I went out there with a couple of Cokes and a book and we read up there all afternoon. Later in the day Peter and Trevor Pike showed up, and we put the books away and played cards. At the time I was deep in the throes of liking Peter, so it wasn’t romantic in the slightest, of that I’m sure. But I do remember feeling that our quiet afternoon had been disrupted, that I’d rather have just kept reading in companionable silence.”
John Ambrose sounds exactly like what Lara Jeans needs. They’re the epitome of missed opportunity.
I also just love typing out their names because of this scene:
“Instead he asks a question. “Why do you always call me by my full name?”
“I don’t know. I guess that’s how I think of you in my head.”
“Oh, so you’re saying you think about me a lot?”
I laugh. “No, I’m saying that when I think about you, which isn’t very often, that’s how I think of you. On the first day of school, I always have to explain to teachers that Lara Jean is my first name and not just Lara. And then, do you remember how Mr. Chudney started calling you John Ambrose because of that? ‘Mr. John Ambrose.”
- There are so many scenes in here that have remained so vivid and big in my head, like, LJ and John Ambrose running to escape the rain that I recall like it’s my own. Books are a part of me like my own memories. Upon revisiting those scenes now, however, I wasn’t as emotionally engaged as the first time. All that has stuck with me through the years from P.S. I Still Love You, read quite anticlimactically this time around, even that epic dance scene at Belleview (for a second there, I fooled myself to think there’s another dance scene after because of how disengaged I was in the moment), or them throwing snowballs at each other in the middle of the night.
“When he sees me, he holds his arms out and sings, “Do you want to build a snowman?” and I burst out laughing so hard John says, “Shh, you’re going to wake up the residents!” which only makes me laugh harder. “It’s only ten thirty!”
This Frozen reference definitely made me laugh in 2015, aka the peak of this song.
- I think it all comes down to the fact that so much in this book, so many of the big events, were just handed to us. There’s no “building up the anticipation” for the reader. John Ambrose and Lara Jean just suddenly meet in real life like it’s nothing. The old crew from the treehouse are all suddenly in the same scene even though they’ve never interacted prior to this (like Trevor who are you??). Everything was just so quick and rushed to get to the finale.
- I do have to say that I looooove the game of tag they initiated (like I mentioned in my review for Morgan Matson’s latest, Save the Date), where the winner receives a wish of their heart’s choice (John Ambrose’s wish made my heart melt). It was a hell of a road seeing everyone think up schemes to tag their person out:
“Genevieve looks very pleased with herself. “One wish, and you have to grant it.” She looks like an evil queen.
Chris’s eyes gleam as she says, “Anything?”
“Within reason,” I quickly say. This isn’t at all what I had in mind, but at least people are willing to play.
“Reason is subjective,” John points out.
“Basically, Gen can’t force Peter to have sex with her one last time,” Chris says. “That’s what everyone’s thinking, right?”
I stiffen. That wasn’t what I was thinking, like at all. But now I am.
Trevor busts up laughing and Peter shoves him. Genevieve shakes her head. “You’re disgusting, Chrissy.”
“I only said what everyone was thinking!”
I love Chris for being there to always supply out loud what’s going through our own head.
- Circling back, I just have to say it: I feel so sorry for my Johnny boy because he got played hard. He exists in this novel pretty much just for Lara Jean’s sake and to make Peter jealous, and it’s so PETTY. I pretty much lost all respect for the relationship between LJ and Peter with this simple exchange:
“After class is over, Peter lingers at his desk, and then he turns around and says, “Hey.”
My heart leaps. “Hey.” I have this sudden, wild thought that if he wants me back, I’ll say yes. Forget my pride, forget Genevieve, forget it all.
“So I want my necklace back,” he says. “Obviously.”
My fingers fly to the heart locket hanging from around my neck. I wanted to take it off this morning, but I couldn’t bear to.”
His “obviously” was the last nail in the coffin. He’s asking back for the necklace he gifted her like it’s a given fact… five-year-old me has personal beef with people like that, so I couldn’t stand him in the moment. Not to mention his plagiarising a poem by Edgar Allan Poe… Come on, Peter. I get that he was trying to impress Lara Jean, but it’s stunts like these that remind me of how juvenile he is.
On a similar note, I disliked the author’s part in manipulating us to feel a certain way toward Peter or John Ambrose, when the plot turns so that everyone is suddenly jumping at Lara Jean to get with John, and it’s beyond jarring.
At a certain point, Peter gets painted as this evil antagonist (like, even Kitty sided against him), whereas everything John portrays is a moral act. I mean, we’re capable to realize on our own without the boldly drawn line of good and evil. This is acutely shown in the Belleview scene where Peter shows up with Gen:
“What are you doing here?” he asks me. “And what’s with all the makeup?” He gestures at my eyes, my lips.
My cheeks burn. I ignore the comment about my makeup and just say, “I work here, remember? I know why you’re here, Genevieve. Peter, thanks a lot for helping her take me out. You’re a real stand-up guy.”
“Covey, I didn’t come here to help her tag you out. I didn’t even know you’d be here. I told you, I don’t give a shit about this game!” He turns to Genevieve. Accusingly he says, “You said you needed to pick something up from your grandma’s friend.”
UGH. So frustrating.
“Blithely John says, “My great-grandmother lives here. Stormy. You may have heard of her. She’s a friend of Lara Jean’s.”
“I’m sure he wouldn’t remember,” I say.
Peter frowns at me, and I know he doesn’t. It’s just like him not to. “What’s with the outfits?” he says, his voice gruff.
“USO party,” John says. “Very exclusive. VIPs only—sorry, guys.” Then he tips his hat at him, which I can tell makes Peter mad, which in turn makes me glad.
“What the hell is a USO party?” Peter asks me.”
All this to say that maybe Peter K. brought her out of her comfort zone, but he still doesn’t completely understand Lara Jean the way John does.
And if all this wasn’t confusing enough, everything gets turned on its head when Peter explains his side of the story, which I’m not convinced by one bit. It’s not OK to lie and hide things and then excuse it by saying “Gen needed a friend.” Genevieve needs counseling, not Peter K. to hug her firmly. It’s not even about him being there for his ex-girlfriend, it’s the fact that he misled Lara Jean to believe one thing when he’s doing another; be transparent, Peter. She deserves someone to treat her right.
“I know she can be manipulative—I’ve always known that. In some ways it was easier for me to default back to what I knew. I think maybe I was scared.”
But when it comes to last lines, this book makes it work fantastically, especially the quote at the end after the reveal that Lara Jean and Peter K. decide to dive all in with no preset rules:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
I am also confusion as to why book three is going against what she’s told herself two books not to do: “Exactly. I don’t want to be the girl crying in her dorm room over a boy.” I stop suddenly. “That’s something Mommy said to Margot. She said don’t be the girl who goes to college with a boyfriend and then misses out on everything.”
All in all: Though I found some hindrances in my reading of P.S. I Still Love You, it’s still so fun to tear through a book in one sitting and not have to mull over it too much.
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