Netflix’s new film To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before tells a story that will ring true to anyone who struggled with crushes during high school. In the movie, Lara Jean Song Covey writes love letters to former boyfriends and crushes, with no intention of them ever reaching the guys in question. But once the letters are mysteriously sent to each person, Lara Jean has to deal with the consequences. Yet even though the film captures teenage relationships in a realistic way, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before isn’t a true story. It’s actually an adaptation of the best-selling young adult novel of the same name by Jenny Han.
Although it’s not a true story, the novel's premise was based on some of its author's own experiences. In an interview with Refinery29, Han divulged that as a teen, she wrote love letters to guys as a way to try to get over them. Like Lara Jean, she would keep them in a hat-box and never intended for them to be shared. “It was a way for me to work through what was feeling,” explained Han. The author also added that if she had been in Lara Jean’s position, where the letters were accidentally sent out, she would’ve been “devastated. So embarrassed.” She explained, “When you write something that you don’t mean for anyone else to see, it should probably stay that way. It’s such an intimate thing to do. I never did it again.”
Han didn’t write the movie adaptation of her novel, but said in a recent interview with Hypable that it meant a lot to see a film version of the story she created. “I’ve loved seeing the world come to life — Lara Jean’s room, especially. There are so many little details, like the Nancy Drew collection, and the art on her walls,” she said.
But according to Han, the most important part of having the novel turned into a movie was the chance to have an Asian-American protagonist lead a teen film. “It’s an absolute honor,” expressed the author. “I hate that it’s taken so long to see an Asian-American girl be the lead of a teen movie, but I am so happy that it’s finally happening. I just want to see more. More representation, more stories told, more points of view, more everything!”
Both Han’s novel and the movie involve Lara Jean trying to mend past relationships while also learning about herself in the process, in addition to dealing with a nightmare that many teenage girls would be fearful of one day happening to them. But as a flawed, realistic heroine who finds herself fighting through a difficult situation, Lara Jean is a character who many young women can relate and look up to. And so even though it’s not a true story, To All The Boys I've Loved Before will feel deeply relatable as Lara Jean tackles some of the worst parts of being a teenager, including nasty rumors, heartbreak, and confusing feelings.