Back home and in Peter’s arms, Lara Jean has to figure out how to tell him that their college plans of attending Stanford University together won’t happen. In a plot twist of the model minority myth, Lara Jean is rejected, while the academically-challenged Peter is accepted on a lacrosse scholarship. When Margot suggests that Lara Jean keep her academic options open and apply to New York University, she bristles at the thought. She comes up with a litany of reasons as to why it’s a bad idea, but it all boils down to one thing: she doesn’t want to be away from Peter.
This scenario is exactly what their mother hadn’t wanted for her daughters. Her wish was the driving force behind Margot breaking up with her high school sweetheart before heading off to college (in the first film). This is the dilemma that Lara Jean frets about for most of Always and Forever. She looks conflicted when her father gently tells her: “You can’t save this relationship by not growing.”
The heart of this movie comes courtesy of the warm chemistry between Lana and Noah, who are so likable together. Viewers are invested in their relationship, because the two make love seem worth fighting for.
Early in the film, the Coveys visit N Seoul Tower – better known as Namsan Tower – which offers a gorgeous panoramic view of Korea’s capital. It’s a popular tourist destination for couples to commemorate their relationship by placing love locks on the tower’s fence. In recent years, it has also become a popular spot for Korean adoptees to honor their birth and adoptive families with personalized love locks. After a little searching, the sisters find their mother’s lock, which says, “For the rest of my life.”
Watching this scene unfold was profound, knowing that Lana herself had been adopted as a baby from Vietnam. But this bit of Lara Jean’s family history (courtesy of a rusty lock) is bittersweet, because there’s almost no chance of it happening in reality. In order to accommodate all the new locks (that Namsan Tower sells in their gift shop), old ones are regularly clipped and discarded. (Mine was there for about a year or so before Becky + Todd 4ever’s lock took my spot.)
While TATB author Jenny Han may have no desire to write a fourth book in this series, wouldn’t it be fun if Kitty got a spinoff? She could move to Seoul to become a K-pop trainee, learn Korean, and reunite with her crush Dae (Jeon Ho-Young). TATB doesn’t have to end with Lara Jean and Peter. With a little bit of tweaking, it can go on always and forever.
Korean-American authors like Han absolutely should not feel the burden of creating only Korean-American characters. But since she did, it would’ve been meaningful to see what Lara Jean’s trip back to Korea meant to her in the bigger picture, even if to acknowledge that it was really little more than a beautiful vacation. And that would’ve been OK, too.
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