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‘To All the Boys’ Was My Comfort Series, & I Got to Say Goodbye in the Best Way Possible

My dad is a huge book nerd and it was only natural that I would follow in his footsteps – minus the genre, of course. While he enjoys some good ol’ non-fic, I’m all about those YA novels and romance reads! Over the years, I’ve searched high and low for the perfect stories to indulge in. From Anna And The French Kiss to Eleanor & Park, I’ve been transported to worlds that have allowed me to ride in the front seat of some of the most beautiful, and the most heartbreaking love stories. Even though my journey was long, and I soaked up the love, once I stumbled upon the book series To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, I can honestly say I was changed forever.

Lana Condor Peter Kavinsky GIF by NETFLIX
Netflix / Giphy

Following the story of the relatable Lara Jean, the trilogy takes us through some of her biggest moments in life – from first loves to university decisions, we see — or feel, I guess — it all. As a reader, we grow with Lara Jean. We’re there for the big moments and the little ones, and truthfully that’s what makes her story so impactful. The feeling of being so immersed into a reality that isn’t real.

When I purchased the first book in the series, simply because the cover looked familiar, I had no clue what it would end up meaning to me. That very same night, I perched myself upon my bed and read the entire book in one sitting. The next morning, I asked my mom to buy me the second. “Okay, just don’t read it all at once again!” she laughed. Spoiler alert: I did! 

Oh, but it wasn’t just that; I went on to pass on the books to my aunt, who got just as into the series. Truth be told, that’s exactly what I was hoping for! I needed to talk to someone about everything that was happening and I knew she’d fall prey to the books just like I did.

Getting to hold a book that captivates you and makes you feel all sorts of emotions is a rare gift only bibliophiles will understand. The adrenaline rush, the goosebumps and falling in love with people who don’t exist — all of it is part of this otherworldly journey you’re taken on that makes you forget about what’s happening IRL.

Lana Condor Peter Kavinsky GIF by NETFLIX
Netflix / Giphy

TATBILB was just that for me. It was a sweet escape — emphasis on sweet — that gave 14-year-old me a chance to witness your typical American high-school love story. It made me feel glee, pain, love and probably a whole myriad of emotions I couldn’t quite make sense of then.

Naturally, once Netflix announced that the books were being adapted to movies, I did the only sensible thing one would do: I started planning a watch party. And of course, the first person I rang was my aunt! And God bless her soul but she was just as excited as me and thus began the journey of reliving the story of Lara Jean and Peter all over again.

While some book lovers aren’t fans of movie adaptations because of the fear that things get lost in translation, I feel quite the opposite. For me, when one of my favorite books is adapted into a movie – it means that I get the chance to feel all of those emotions I felt when I first read the book once again. I get to put a face to the characters and watch the settings come to life. And while creating a world in your head is great, it’s also wonderful to see what was once a figment of your imagination, come to life.

So as Lara Jean and her loved ones came to life on the big screen and the world began to feel the love too, I felt a sense of pride that people finally understood how great she was. In large part, it’s all thanks to Jenny, who made the story so real and full of emotion.

When the second movie was released, I planned a watch party again (including a rewatch of the first one), but as we geared up for the final movie, my heart sunk a little knowing I couldn’t really celebrate it with the people who loved it just as much as I did, at least not in person.

And perhaps God decided to do me a solid (or it was just a big, happy coincidence), but I was able to end up celebrating the release in the most perfect way imaginable: by hopping on a Zoom call with Lana Condor, who plays Lara Jean, and Noah Centineo (jackpot), who plays Peter Kavinsky, the day of the final movie’s release.

Lana Condor Peter Kavinsky GIF by NETFLIX
Netflix / Giphy
I remember the exact moment I received the email inviting me to attend the Zoom call. The subject said something along the lines of ‘Meet the Cast of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ and as I was aimlessly scrolling through my inbox in class (sorry to any of my professors that might be reading this) and my eyes landed on the email, I instantly thought it was a joke. Or a spam email. Or both? I mean, almost everyone who knows me knows how much I love the series so I figured it was some sort of practical joke. But of course, I indulged anyway and opened up the email only to realize the sender was a legit person from the Her Campus team that I had spoken to before.

Almost immediately, I grabbed my phone and texted… yup, my aunt! Freaking out, I said “Ummmmm, holy sh*t! I think I’m going to meet Lara Jean and Peter.” And a fangirl sesh ensued. For the longest time, it felt surreal. I didn’t exactly feel excited or nervous only because it genuinely didn’t feel real. 

The call was happening at 7 a.m. in my timezone and the night before as it finally began to sink in, I was in disbelief. So I did what any sane person would do, pull an all-nighter! I spent the night thinking about what to say and whether my outfit was good enough and whether I’d be too tired to register it but also how I wasn’t tired at all. I had a million thoughts racing through my mind but they were all overpowered by one singular feeling: gratitude. I felt grateful to have even received the opportunity to do something that meant so much to me. It felt like fate, good luck and perfect timing.

While I’m sure they must’ve hopped on a ton of calls like the one I was on, Lana and Noah were nothing but nice. Even if they were tired or exhausted, they didn’t show it one bit. They were happy to be there, excited to meet people who loved them and above all, they truly embodied their characters and met their fans with so much grace, poise and love. They took the time to express their gratitude, take pictures with us and answer a couple of questions—all things they didn’t have to do. And above all, it was so apparent how much they loved and cherished their characters, definitely as much as we did if not more. They were so excited to share that experience with others and honestly, it made the morning all the more special.

So as tough as it was having to say goodbye to Lara Jean and Peter, getting to say hello to Lana and Noah made it a little bit easier. It was the perfect way to end the era, and pay homage to my comfort characters.

And before you ask, yes – I did go bury myself in the books right after I finished watching the movie. And I also slept like a baby after that call.

Zainab is a 4th-year journalism student from Dubai, UAE who is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus at Ryerson. When she's not taking photos for her Instagram or petting dogs on the street, she's probably watching a rom-com on Netflix or journaling! Zainab loves The Bold Type and would love to work for a magazine in New York City someday! Zainab is a feminist and fierce advocate against social injustice - she hopes to use her platform and writing to create change in the world, one article at a time.