Ruining Books: Always and Forever, Hollywood

Netflix%27s+latest+adaptation+of+Jenny+Han%27s+bestselling+series.

Photo provided by Netflix

Netflix’s latest adaptation of Jenny Han’s bestselling series.

Serena Park, Copy Editor

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching the latest and final installment of Netflix’s movie series, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” inspired by the young adult book series of the same name by Jenny Han.

The series follows Lara Jean Song Covey, an introverted teen who writes love letters to every boy she’s ever been in love with. However, those letters (which were never meant to be shared with anyone) are mysteriously mailed out, and Lara Jean ends up faking a relationship with Peter Kavinsky, lacrosse star and recipient of one of those letters.

First things first, some clarification:
As an avid reader of cheesy young adult (YA) romance novels, of course I read Jenny Han’s cult favorite series. I loved all three books so much I even had the opportunity to meet the author and had my book signed. With that being said, I think it’s fair to say I am familiar with the storyline of the series.
When I first heard that Netflix was adapting the first book into a movie, I was elated. I had high expectations for the film adaptation because I thought that Han’s original storyline and dialogue had everything Netflix rom-coms seem to have: main character that’s pretty much perfect in every way but somehow isn’t very popular and is supposed to be relatable because she’s “not like other girls,” a tragic backstory (probably a dead parent), and a hunky romantic interest that is worlds apart from the protagonist (this is set in high school, so most likely a jock).

Serena Park ’21 meeting author of the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” series in 2018. (Photo provided by Serena Park )

Upon the first movie’s release, I watched it with two of my friends, all three of us being big fans of the books. To our happiness, the movie was near perfect. While it was not one hundred percent accurate to the book, the minor changes that were made fit into the story well. Additionally, the casting was pretty good, with Lana Condor in the role of Lara Jean and Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky. Most importantly, the movie stood well on its own in that even people that did not read the book thoroughly enjoyed it.

The second film, “P.S. I Still Love You” was slightly less impressive. This adaptation strayed a bit further from the original text, and the chemistry between the two leads that made the first movie so believable was lacking. However, overall the movie was still enjoyable to watch, for readers of the books and nonreaders alike

And that brings us to the final installment, “Always and Forever, Lara Jean,” titled “Always and Forever” in the movie adaptation.

The third book was probably my favorite one out of the three. It had the perfect amount of classic rom-com movie references mixed with the very real and relatable journey of senior year of high school. It wrapped up the series perfectly, showing growth and maturity in both Lara Jean and Peter.

Nevertheless, its movie adaptation was my breaking point.

I could handle the omissions of scenes in the first movie. I tolerated the changes made in the second. But the mess that was the third made me want to curl up in a ball and cry.

Not only did this last film take out all the cutest scenes from the book that made my expectations for love far too high, but the movie itself was simply not good. The pacing seemed off, with fast cuts between time periods and oddly animated transition scenes. There were numerous plotlines started but never finished or explained and the chemistry that was fading in the second movie was nowhere to be found in the third.

This movie completely destroyed Peter Kavinsky’s entire character arc and took away his entire personality. Gone was the sweet, doting Peter from the first movie, replaced by a blank, dry husk of the character he used to be.

Finally, this third plotline largely revolves around the couple’s college decisions, and while the original text discussed the two schools of University of Virginia and University of North Carolina, the movie changed the schools to Stanford University and New York University, two very prestigious schools.

Now, as a high school senior, I admit I do have some bias on this topic, seeing as college is a very prevalent topic in my life right now, but to me this change was unnecessary and really only made the story a lot less relatable because the schools they chose are so elite.

While this may seem like a book nerd’s nitpicky complaints, I asked a few Royals who have not read the books their opinion on the third movie.

Senior Alli Mitts ’21 said, “This movie was a disgrace to the Netflix name. Watching it probably took fourteen months off of my life. But I 11/10 would recommend it if you want something to relentlessly mock with your friends.”

Brooke Medina ’22 also delivered a scathing review, “I wish they stayed closer to the original movie. I do love the character of Lara Jean because she has to make some tough decisions, which is relatable to many teenagers at this time, but I have to say Noah Centineo is overrated and I don’t love his character.”

With that being said, a word of advice: just watch the first movie.