Our Reading Lives

To All The Books I’ve (Not) Loved Before

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Jess Carbert

Staff Writer

Jess is a freelance journalist with training in the mystic arts of print, television, radio, and a dash of PR. When she’s not mowing people down in her wheelchair, she’s writing like her life depends on it, or getting willfully lost in a book. Twitter: @heyits_wheels

Jess Carbert

Staff Writer

Jess is a freelance journalist with training in the mystic arts of print, television, radio, and a dash of PR. When she’s not mowing people down in her wheelchair, she’s writing like her life depends on it, or getting willfully lost in a book. Twitter: @heyits_wheels

First, let me start by saying that Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy is somewhere in my lopsided and unending TBR pile. Secondly: hello. If you are one of the recipients of this ode, I hope you’ve found a new home— a better one, with a reader perfectly suited for your content. Someone who will excitedly open you before bed, only to dream of the things you’ve promised them on the page, whether it be a sappy love story or a triumphant victory over a despotic ruler. Or maybe you get carefully tucked into a book-sleeve inside their bag so they can sneak a few minutes of quiet reading each day— time is finite and inherently precious, so that they’d spend it absorbed in you is a testament to just how appreciated you are in your new home. And though you may wonder— as another reader’s hands crack your spine, dog-ear your pages, accidentally drop you in the tub, or set you on the cushion of their reading chair so you won’t be lost in the daily grind— why your time with me came to an end: rest assured, I was disappointed, too.




I remember the day I bought each of you. Some of you were glossy hardbacks, full-price and startlingly large; others were squat paperbacks that didn’t take up nearly so much space on my shelf. Trust me: in your case, whatever it was, size really didn’t matter.

Maybe you were a fantasy with a too-good-to-be true plot, or a contemporary that had been hyped up by everyone and their mother (and the people at the bookstore, too!) Maybe you were about to be adapted as a movie and I felt the urge to pick you up and read you before parting with my hard-earned cash for a movie ticket (plus, amongst fellow readers, you always get extra points for knowing the source material. Even if that’s the most frustratingly hipster thing I can admit, we all know it’s true). Maybe you were YA, or adult, or the now-rare-for-me-to-purchase but not-excluded middle grade. Maybe you were the only book I bought that day, as a treat, or maybe you were one of a dozen I couldn’t resist adding to an already-overflowing cart, because we both know I see the word “SALE” and completely lose my shit.

It doesn’t matter. When I held you for the first time, I was determined: I would love you forever and always. I would love you so much, I’d recommend you to my friends (with a strict no-borrowing policy, of course!)

I wanted to adore with every fibre of my being (and every single dollar I spent on you, too). I wanted to keep you for my children and maybe even their children (let’s be real: you would have been lovingly destroyed by my hypothetical children. In much the same way I smeared red sauce from that Chinese food all over my original copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire because I refused to put it down and eat like a normal person, you would’ve been loved a little too hard). I fully expected to turn to you for comfort when the going got rough, or for entertainment on a breezy, content day.

But none of that was to be, and you and I both know why.

I wanted to love you. I just didn’t.

Sometimes it wasn’t anything to do with you, sometimes it was just me. I remember, sometimes, you were good, just not what I wanted or needed you to be. You were probably too similar to something I’d read before, or you fell short in a dozen arbitrary areas that only seem to count when I’m digesting someone else’s story.

But then, there are those of you that I can remember parting with. And I remember exactly why.

I remember why I didn’t love you, translated work with the gorgeous art. I bought you in another country, bedazzled by your cover. I was so enraged at your blatant promotion of becoming a plagiarist as something to aspire to (no, no, never!) that you didn’t even make it onto the plane back home. I read you that night and left you on the bed at the summer house. I hope the next person who found you was truly taken by those gorgeous illustrations of yours (when I went onto Goodreads to check, most people were singing your praises, particularly for your strong feminist elements. Really? I didn’t see them. In fairness, I can’t get over the whole plagiarism thing. Thinking about it even now, years after our split, has me seeing red).

I remember why I donated you to charity, new adult book that promised romance, smut, and a tragic love story. All was fine between our two main characters, and then— record scratch.Your male lead hit your female lead. I finished you because I had nothing else to do that particular Sunday, but damn if I wish I hadn’t. You ended on a cliffhanger. I didn’t really care. It’s possible that in your follow-up, your “hero” is redeemed— even though your heroine was a manipulative compulsive liar with borderline sociopathic tendencies that I firmly disliked, I really wish you didn’t include that hitting scene— but I don’t want to find out.

I remember passing you on to a friend of my mother’s, companion novel to one of my favourite books in the world. Your prose was gorgeous, but both  of your leads were awful. One reminded me of a friend from high school, who thought being needy and completely dependent on others was sexy, and the other was just a jackass. I want to try you again because I love your author’s work.. But as an ebook, so I don’t have to commit to giving you shelf-space. You know? I hope you were enjoyed tremendously in your new home; it definitely helps that your new reader(s) won’t have heard of your predecessor. Fingers crossed that I’ll like you the second time around (fingers crossed that I even give you a second attempt, because just your memory is frustrating me).

And most recently, I remember why I let my non-reading acquaintance pluck you straight off my shelf, adult thriller that I truly enjoyed in the moment. It was only when I was ranting about your treatment of the disabled to a friend that I realized I did not, in fact, want anything to do with you. I liked your twists and turns the way new college-goers enjoy their first alcoholic friend (because there’s always some party to attend), but the allure quickly soured. I still want to rip your pages out with my bare hands because disabled people should be more than a plot device, you f*cking knob. But you’re not mine anymore. You were too (and I hate this word) problematic to be worth your cover price. I doubt you’ll be read, just turned into a coffee table book (admittedly, your cover is pretty).

I’ll never forget any of you, all the books I’ve (not) loved before. I wish I could, but I wouldn’t want to revisit the past and buy you again (except for you, companion novel. Though I probably never will). I hope you’re all happy in your new homes and that you’re all treated well (except for you, adult thriller. Your setting was well-researched and your plot fast-paced, but you fill me with true disdain). For all of us, the future (and new books!) await.