Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

 

Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cards on the table: I am an action over romance girl any and every day of the week.

Give me blood and battles and armies. Give me fighting and intrigue. Tales of deception and danger. Of people kicking ass and taking names, usually (maybe even preferably) without mercy. Grand epics or back-alley brawls — I am all about it.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I stumble upon something sweet. Something that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Something that tugs at my heartstrings and has me suppressing high-pitched squee-ing sounds that really are rather undignified coming from a young person in their mid-twenties…okay maybe it’s not that undignified, but you get where I’m coming from.

These are not my usual books.
These are special.

The first book in this series, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, was my introduction to the fictional world of Jenny Han. I remember hearing the pitch for the book and thinking, “Huh…well that sounds interesting.” And when I saw that Jenny Han would be having an event here in my city for the book, I knew it was clearly meant to be: I had to read this book.

Now, putting the books aside for the moment: Jenny Han is a gem. She is a human ray of sunshine that I’m not sure this world truly deserves. When you look up the term “sweet cinnamon roll,” it’ll say: c.f. Jenny Han. I’ve now been to all three events she’s had here for the Lara Jean series and I have left every single one smiling, eager to read whichever book was in my hands, and full of kind words of advice and encouragement.

And then we have the books. Oh do we ever have these books. These charming, sweet tales of Lara Jean and her sisters; Lara Jean and her dad; Lara Jean and all the everyday, seemingly mundane things that can happen to young teenage girl. And yet it’s those seemingly mundane and ordinary things that are the best parts of the story: how everyday life suddenly feels so technicolor. How there’s even great moments that talk about serious teenage topics, without it feeling it was contrived for the purpose of creating drama in the narrative. How family bonds, especially between siblings, are some of the closest and most loyal, even when they’re complicated at times. And how life is sometimes weird and strange things doesn’t always work out the way you want them too.

But we do. We make things work. We carry on. We live our lives and we live them as full as we can, savouring every moment. We live, we laugh, we love.

As always, Lara Jean, Peter Kavinsky, their friends, their families — all of them! — have brought a smile to my face and warm fuzzies in my heart. Thank you.

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Review: Your Name. (Kimi No Na Wa)

TL;DW – Run, don’t walk to this movie while you can (if you can). I know it’s still got a pretty limited release, but this is a film that you don’t want to miss.

Few films are this beautifully done from top to bottom — writing, direction, acting, animation — while also being both profound and emotionally moving. I cannot recommend this film (and, really, all of Shinkai’s films) highly enough.

FINAL VERDICT: SEE IT/BUY IT.

The Black Tapes: Less is More

I’m not one for horror.

Correction: I’m not one for modern-horror. I’ve found that most modern horror, especially in film, ends up being nothing more than an onslaught of gratuitous slaughter and gore, followed by a few jump-scares. That’s not scary, just startling and gross. No, if I want horror, I want my heart to build to a slow, but steady climb from uneasy skip to terrified gallop; I want the hairs to stand up on the back of my neck; I want to feel the need to keep some kind of light on at night. I want tension, I want atmosphere and mood; I want to constantly question what’s going on and what’s going to happen; I want to hold my breath on the verge of tears, afraid to uncoil my tight body from its braced position.

In other words: terrify me, don’t startle me. After all, the definition I put to horror is a story that elicits a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s primal fears.

This is why most modern-day horror just does not do it for me, and why I’m not the person you want to try to pitch those kinds of stories to; they’re just not going to interest me. But in 2016, I made a serious exception to this rule. Someone who knows my tastes very well, recommended I listen to a podcast entitled The Black Tapes.

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