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


Ashley Park

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the first book in a trilogy of young adult romance novels written by Jenny Han and  published in 2014. In August of 2018, it was adapted into a Netflix film and was quick to gain a large audience. The plot follows a Korean-American girl and the ups and downs of her unforeseen love life life as she navigates high school.

High school junior Lara Jean Covey–a hopeless romantic with no previous relationship experience–finds herself in an unexpected predicament. It all started with the love letters she had written to the five guys she had loved in the past and how all those letters went missing one fateful day. To her horror, she discovers they had been mailed by her vengeful and rebellious younger sister, Kitty, to her past infatuations–one of them being her older sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. Desperate to clear the misconception that Josh begins to have that she was in love with him, Lara Jean makes a deal with Peter Kavinsky, another love letter recipient and starts a fake relationship with him. To them, throwing Josh off and getting a jealous reaction from Peter’s ex-girlfriend was a solid win-win situation. However,  things prove to be harder to handle than planned as a hurt older sister, a situation involving a leaked video, and hot tub are added to the mix. Lara Jean becomes overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. To top it all off, she wonders if she’s starting to truly fall for Peter?

Starting off with the book, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Although I consider this book to be an easier read, I find it to be one of my favorites. I love going back to it every now and then, especially when I’m in need of a book that gives me that warm, familiar feeling. The book provides a lot of detail that helps structure and paint a perfect picture of what Han is trying to convey through her words. The characters are all unique and have their own defining characteristics, which Han had no trouble piecing together through their words and actions. Overall, the book is an excellent, average-length romance novel.

As for the movie, it was a well-made production, and the casting couldn’t have been more fit. The actors chosen were able to embody their characters well. As most movies that are adapted from books tend to be, so many small details and scenes were cut out and not included. This made it more difficult for the movie to fully capture the essence of the story that Han had created. Nevertheless, Netflix was able to produce an hour and a half-long film that brought her story to life. Something particular to this movie that I noticed was that a lot of the scenes held a very awkward atmosphere, and I cannot tell if this is intentional or not. However, Lara Jean’s personality can be described as awkward, so they could have included that feeling to reflect the main character.

In both the novel and the film, the majority of the characters, likeable and unlikeable, were written in a very easy-to-relate way. In terms of the overall setting and aesthetic, both were set to be more on the calm, serene side. The vintage aspects and themes that were included in the book were used perfectly in the movie and displayed how I would imagine them to be. A majority of the key scenes from the book were played out well and met my expectations.

However, many seemingly less important scenes and even characters unfortunately did not make the big screen. Although many of the moments from the books that had been cut did not contribute much to the plot of the story, it definitely helped create laughter and the warm, fuzzy feelings books need in order to create a sort of attachment to the characters. The book shows more aspects of the various relationships explored throughout the story, giving more room for the audience’s understanding of certain occurrences. For example, in the movie, Lara Jean’s long distance relationship with her older sister, Margot, is only shown once through an uncomfortable video call while Margot is off at college. Meanwhile, in the books, you can clearly see that the two sisters remain in close contact despite the distance. 

The movie immediately drew in many viewers, unlike the book, which gained popularity following the film’s popularity after its release in 2018. Additionally, Netflix also released film adaptations of the other two parts of the trilogy, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You and To All the Boys: Always and Forever in 2020 and 2021 respectively. Zoe on Goodreads, a fan who actually read the novel first said, “It was even more enjoyable since it was a reread in preparation for watching the Netflix original! Though I haven’t seen it yet, I had the actors in mind the entire time.”

While a handful of people may prefer the movie over the book and vice versa, no one can deny the success of both. The narrative Jenny Han spun and the production that allowed for it to be brought to life go hand in hand and are both highly recommended.