The highly anticipated sequel to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before delivers a refreshingly real take on first relationships and young love, while still keeping a rom-com spirit. Netflix released P.S. I Still Love You on February 12, two days before I settled down to watch it on Valentine’s Day. The decision to capitalize on the romantic holiday was clear––which is why I think it hit harder when Lara Jean and Peter’s first steps into their newfound relationship weren’t quite what I expected. Instead, what I got was something a little more complex than a feel-good rom-com.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
The sequel begins with Lara Jean dancing gleefully around her room as she gets ready for her first-ever date. As she descends the stairs in a cute red dress with bows on the shoulders, she narrates, “People say fairy tales aren’t real. But sometimes… happily ever after is for real.” Coming from someone who wrote five heartfelt love letters addressed to all the boys she ever loved, the fact that Lara Jean is an idealist and utter romantic comes as no surprise. Which is why, when she receives a letter back from John Ambrose McClaren—“the Model UN guy”—and later meets him in person at her volunteer placement, she becomes confused: “I thought having a boyfriend meant that the mere idea of other boys left your mind completely.”
Thus begins a tentative love triangle that is further compounded by Lara Jean’s feelings of insecurity with Peter, specifically regarding his past relationship with his ex-girlfriend: “But for every first I was having with him, he’d already had his with her.” John Ambrose, on the other hand, is “easier”—there’s nothing to overthink with him. He’s the type to volunteer at the Belleview retirement residence alongside Lara Jean, and commiserate with her in their mutual dislike of flip cup.
The sequel doesn’t have the anticipation of Lara Jean and Peter getting together—the will-they-won’t-they—that the first movie relied upon. Now that Lara Jean and Peter are officially dating, the plot takes more of a realistic turn. The stakes get a little higher. They actually have to put in the work to stay together. And although they try to make things work, it isn’t at all easy. When Peter made mistake after mistake, or when Lara Jean was too quick to give up, I cringed, sighed, and raised an eyebrow or two—some of their actions and decisions confused me.
This is where fans of “Team John Ambrose” come in. But to me, John’s role seemed uncertain. I was unable to decide whether he was a serious romantic candidate, or a vehicle to propel the plot between Lara Jean and Peter forward. But so what? Love triangles are hardly new, and are a proven trope used to reignite the relationship between the main characters, especially when the male lead gets jealous. The trailer was just a little misleading, is all. What surprised me instead was my reaction to how Peter and Lara Jean were behaving as their relationship began to fray at the edges.
When Stormy offers Lara Jean alcohol and she declines, citing her age, a jolt of realization passed through me: that’s right––they’re only sixteen. I was pushing unfair assumptions onto these characters, expecting Peter to be more charming, expecting Lara Jean to be more consistent and less like—well, like a teenager.
”I think it’s time we both had a drink.”
“Stormy, I’m sixteen.”
But Peter isn’t the perfect male lead that gets it right every time. He makes mistakes. He lies. He acts immature. His heart’s in the right place, though that doesn’t excuse the times when he hurts Lara Jean with his actions and decisions. Likewise, Lara Jean is insecure, an overthinker, and hesitates at crucial moments. Moreover, I couldn’t find any justification for her kiss with John Ambrose, as sweet as he is.
While the first film seemed to create this romantic fairy tale setup, the sequel tears it all down in order to build things up again. Even the ending, though written to hit all those Valentine’s Day feels, shows how much effort the two still have ahead of them if they’re going to make things work. Relationships don’t just freeze in place after the end-movie kiss, as P.S. I Still Love You shows. And while I hope that this time, Peter and Lara Jean have truly found their happily ever after, we’ll just have to wait and see how they fare in the third installment: Always and Forever, Lara Jean.