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To All The 📚 📺 🎞 I've Loved All Summer

It's been way too hot this summer and my only reprieve has come in the form of media that made me feel something other than sweaty and exhausted. For my first The Verbal Thing Newsletter (Redux), I have a mini essay about the best film I've seen all year (in many years, honestly), and a handful of recommendations to get you through that weird settling-in period that happens every fall. Whether you're heading back to school or just waiting for the right time to carve pumpkins so they don't rot before Halloween, these should keep you going as fall begins. 🍃🍂
If you were hoping to avoid To All the Boys I've Loved Before in this newsletter... honestly, I'm not even sorry. Like most of the people on your social feeds, this movie has absolutely consumed me since I first watched it on August 25. It's been a long time since a movie so thoroughly consumed my attention; as I write this newsletter, I'm watching it for the fifth time, and I still can't get enough.
TATBILB stands out for so many reasons: the cast, the cinematography, the direction, the soundtrack. I am as in love with Lana Condor as Lara Jean Song-Covey as I am with Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky. Anna Cathcart steals every single scene that Kitty is on-screen and Trezzo Mahoro is so unassuming and perfect as Lucas that I can't deal. Netflix put together an official Spotify soundtrack for the film and a fan curated a much longer playlist of music from and inspired by it that I've basically had on repeat for the last two weeks. 

Alanna Bennett wrote about the film's "radical softness" and how it became an instant classic when it hit Netflix. Alyse Whitney wrote about the film's true love story, between Condor and the YA book series' author Jenny Han, in a piece that made me tear up multiple times. It seems like everyone is sinking into the utter and uncomplicated joy of a well-done rom-com, and I am so here for it.
I've loved rom-coms since I was a little kid. The best ones are the ones that fill me up with butterflies, make my heart race, and inspire a dedication to the characters and the relationships (romantic, platonic, and otherwise) that I can't shake, even days, weeks, or months after seeing the film for the first time. The very best rom-coms are the ones that make me feel all those things like it's the first time, each time, and having watched TATBILB so many times in less than a week, I can say with confidence that this film falls under "the very best" category. I don't think it will win any awards; I've seen some valid critiques of the occasionally clunky dialogue and some understandable comments about how the film as a whole does have some weak moments. But honestly? I don't care. As a culture critic, I spend the majority of my time consuming media so I can break it down, find its flaws, and argue for what it can do better.

With To All the Boys I've Loved Before, I don't want to do that. I just want to sit in these nice feelings and enjoy Lara Jean and Peter's love story; I want to help convince Netflix to greenlight a sequel (there are three books, after all, so there's plenty more romance to play with) and I want to enjoy this sweetness for as long as I can. 

I feel protective of this film in a way that I didn't expect. When people are lukewarm about it (like my former boss, who texted me his thoughts while he watched and then concluded, after Lara Jean walks across the lacrosse field and tells Peter she likes him, that the movie was "ok"), I want to grab them by the shoulders and tell them all the reasons that this movie is amazing and wonderful and delightful and good. I can't imagine how I'll react if someone tells me they didn't like it, but I feel like it will probably crush me, a little bit. Is that healthy? Probably not, but I can't change it now.
I wanted so badly to sit in Lara Jean's universe after I saw the film that I devoured Jenny Han's YA trilogy in under 48 hours. Like I said above, I've had the music on repeat. There's nothing about this film that makes me want to move on from it, and I don't think I'm alone in that.

I think a large part of why this movie has been so successful is that people need it, in this moment. It's restorative. Healing. Comedic and romantic and hopeful in a way that so much media isn't, especially now, when it feels like every day there's a new crisis catapulting us toward the end of the world.

As an adult who grew up loving rom-coms, who can relate so readily to the feelings Lara Jean has, who once spent hours imagining what it might be like to have my feelings returned by my crushes... TATBILB hit me in a dozen different ways. I wasn't expecting it, but now I'm in it, and I'm honestly loving it.
I read a lot of nonfiction this summer, largely because I wanted to engage with media similar to what I was writing myself: essays, culture criticisms, and reviews. To that end, the books that hit me hardest were books in that vein, but I also really devoured a YA trilogy in less than 48 hours. Here's what I loved the most (and what I'm reading, because I can already tell it's going to stick with me for years).
 
Dead Girls: Essays On Surviving An American Obsession by Alice Bolin: This is what I'm currently reading, and the way Bolin articulates our obsession with Dead Girls—not only in true crime and news feeds, but in fictional media as well—is incredible. I'm thrilled that someone has opted to examine this phenomena across media types, drawing from books, TV shows, and more. If you haven't picked this up but you're interested in media through a feminist lens, I can't recommend it enough. It's also a great read for fall because of its subject matter and the fact that it delves deep into Twin Peaks and other quintessential autumnal content.
 
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: I first heard about Henrietta Lacks a few years ago, but had no idea how badly her family was fucked over until I rented this book from the library. I have told everyone I know to read this, so I'm telling you, too: dig into the racist history of how US doctors used a dying woman's cancer cells to create life-changing (and life-saving) research without her family ever knowing or receiving compensation.
 
To All the Boys I've Loved Before, P.S., I Still Love You, & Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han: I watched TATBILB on Netflix and immediately read all three books in less than two days' time. These books are ridiculously cute and, while formulaic, they're great for a weekend in when you don't want to interact with people and would rather sit in some gooey feelings that help you avoid all the bad shit in the world.
 
To keep up with what I've been reading all year, as well as what I plan to read in the future, see my profile on GoodReads.
In addition to reading a ton of nonfiction, I also read quite a few comics this summer. I slowly (slowly) started getting into X-Men (primarily by listening to Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, which is kind of a feat because I'm notoriously Bad At Listening to Podcasts) and I re-read some of my recent favorites, including Moonstruck (pictured in the banner above). 

When we went to Flame Con in August, we picked up several comics straight from their creators, which was awesome. We also acquired quite a few comics from our local comic shop and from Forbidden Planet in NYC. Here were some of my faves.

 
Quantum Teens Are Go by Magdalene Visaggio (Writer), Eryk Donovan (Artist) and Claudia Aguirre (Colorist): Holy shit, y'all. We bought this TPB because Magdalene Visaggio said it was her favorite thing she had ever written, and I can totally see why. This book combines teen romance and time travel in a way that I didn't expect but totally adored.
 

Faith by Jody Houser (Writer), Pere Pérez (Artist) and Margeurite Sauvage (Fantasy Sequence Artist): I wrote about the need for more fat superheroes for The Mary Sue, then picked up the first two Faith trades and fell in love with this fangirl superhero with a moral code I can totally get behind. She's getting her own movie and I can't wait to see her on the big screen. Here are some more complete thoughts on Faith on the blog!

Black Bolt by Saladin Ahmed (Writer) and Christian Ward (Artist): I read Black Bolt months ago and I'm still thinking about it. Prior to reading these two TPBs, I'd never read Inhumans content before, but honestly? I didn't need to. This story exists unto itself and while background information is handy, I didn't find it necessary to enjoy the emotional journey Black Bolt goes on to save himself, then save his unexpected and newfound friends. This series explores found family in a big way and I was attached to the characters from the get-go. Plus, Christian Ward's art is just utterly breathtaking throughout. Big ups to this series. Please read it.
 

Here's a photo of my cats when they were just kittens:

Next Week: Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, more books, and a deep-dive into my favorite '90s rom-com. Thank you for subscribing!
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