Not My Job: 'To All The Boys' Author Jenny Han Gets Quizzed On Toys
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we talk to somebody about something they don't particularly want to talk about. It's called Not My Job. If you have a teenager, or just a romantic in your family, they're probably talking about the Netflix movie "To All The Boys I've Loved Before." It's been credited with reviving the whole genre of teen romantic comedy. Well, that movie is based on a best-selling book by Jenny Han. She joins us now.
Jenny Han, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
JENNY HAN: Thank you.
SAGAL: Jenny, first of all, congratulations on the success of the movie. Everybody's talking about it.
HAN: Thank you so much.
SAGAL: Yeah. Was it autobiographical at all, this particular one - "To All The Boys I've Loved Before"?
HAN: It was a little bit. The germ of the idea came from my own life because I used to write secret love letters to boys when I was trying to find closure. And then I put them in a hatbox, and I never sent them out. But mine were never mailed.
SAGAL: Right. And in the movie, they - the letters that the heroine has written get mailed, and then she has to deal with all these boys who have gotten these love letters from her.
SAGAL: And high jinks ensue.
MAEVE HIGGINS: Jenny, did you see in the news today about those letters that are, like, 250 years old that have just been opened up?
HIGGINS: Oh, it's the coolest thing. Like, these letters that were sent from Nova Scotia back to England, like, hundreds of years ago, and they never made it. And then now this archivist is opening them. And there's - they're heartbreaking. It's, like, father, won't to send me some sustenance? Father...
HIGGINS: It's terrible here. And they're just these old, yellowed pieces of paper that never reached the right person.
HELEN HONG: Oh, no.
ADAM BURKE: So they never got their sustenance.
BURKE: Father, I hope that in 250 years time, an Irishwoman doesn't make fun of me on the radio.
SAGAL: Jenny, I've always wondered this about writers who write romances because, of course, in romances, generally, the girl gets the boy, the boy gets the girl. Do you feel obligated to have a successful romantic life of your own?
HAN: (Unintelligible) We're getting into it, huh?
HAN: No, I don't.
SAGAL: You knew when you signed up for this, Jenny - go on.
HAN: Oh, my god. I'm blushing.
HIGGINS: When you interview Stephen King, are you, like, do you feel obligated to murder people in different...
HIGGINS: ...Frightening - different frightening scenarios?
SAGAL: Do you ever get - I mean, since you based this novel on a real-life thing, do you ever hear from people that you knew when you were young going, was that guy me, or was that woman me?
HAN: Yeah. Unfortunately, yes.
SAGAL: Oh, really?
HAN: Yes. And I just got my high school reunion email.
SAGAL: Oh, my god.
HONG: Are you going to go? Are you going to go?
HAN: I probably won't, but...
SAGAL: Oh, you've got to go.
HONG: You have to go. Bring a camera crew with you.
SAGAL: The whole point of becoming a best-selling author is to go back to your high school reunion and lord it over everybody.
BURKE: Also, before you go, send out all those letters.
SAGAL: So, but now - I'm actually serious because I know this happens to author friends of mine. Do people, like, get in touch and then go, Jenny, was that guy me? You based that on me, didn't you?
HAN: Yes, people do do that. At my 10 year reunion, people were asking me if they had made it into the book, and I was denying everything.
HAN: So I think at my 20 year, I probably will just avoid that...
HONG: No. This is when you have to have fun and go and, like, mess with people...
HONG: ...And just, like, go up to, like, the mean girls that were mean to you in high school and be, like, you got it coming, girl.
SAGAL: Did you - do you as a reader today still enjoy romances? Do you like reading the sort of things you write?
HAN: Yeah, I do. I love it. And I'm so excited about the rom-com having this resurgence because that's what I've been waiting for.
SAGAL: Yeah. This is - and I've actually - I have read that, like, oh, the rom-com is back because of "To All The Boys I've Loved Before."
SAGAL: They think that it's revived the genre. So congratulations.
HAN: Thank you.
SAGAL: Yeah. Would it be...
HIGGINS: God's work, Jenny - God's work.
SAGAL: Have you ever written a romantic book in which the girl or boy, whoever is the hero, does not get the object of their desire?
HAN: Yeah, I think so. I think, generally, romantic stories end with people together. But I'd like a story that ends, like, hopefully but not necessarily neatly.
BURKE: Right. Right.
HIGGINS: Yeah. There's never, like, a drowning at the end of your book or something.
SAGAL: Have you ever considered taking one of your couples that end up with that hopeful note and then revisiting them 10 years later...
SAGAL: ...Where they're driving each other crazy because of the way they load the dishwasher? Have you ever...
HIGGINS: To all the boys I've nagged before.
HONG: Jenny, are your - your parents are Korean, yeah?
HONG: And what do they think? Are they - do they get it?
HAN: My parents are very, very, very proud - and even more so when my uncle in Korea was sending my mom, like, articles about it in Korea.
HONG: Oh, yeah.
HONG: That's when it's legit.
SAGAL: Well, Jenny Han, it's a pleasure to talk to you. We've asked you to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: To All The Toys I've Loved Before.
SAGAL: As we've discussed, your best-selling book and the movie based on it is called "To All The Boys I've Loved Before," so we've invited you to - on to ask you about the toys that people have loved before. You answer two out of three questions correctly about antique toys, you'll win our prize - the voice if any of us on the voicemail of one of our listeners. Bill, who is Jenny Han playing for?
KURTIS: Carole Desantis of Newtown Square, Pa.
SAGAL: Ready to do this?
HAN: I'm ready.
SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question. Furbies, of course, were the big toy fad of the '90s, but not everyone loved those little electronic talking animals. In fact, they were banned where? A, at the New York Philharmonic after two hours of Furbies singing whee, ha ha and yummy left attendees shaken...
SAGAL: ...B, the British Highlands after local kids discovered that the sounds of a Furby initiated a mating response in cows...
SAGAL: ...And their pranks cause too many births; or C, at the Pentagon, where officials were afraid that Furbies could record state secrets?
SAGAL: Yes, you're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: You remember - for those who weren't around, Furbies listened to you and repeated things back, and people were afraid at the Pentagon that they could get all their secrets. Here's your next question. The Easy Bake Oven - classic toy but mostly popular with girls. When Hasbro tried to market the toy to boys, it failed, and that was probably because they did what? A, they called it the Queasy Bake Cookerator with recipes for mud and crud cakes and drip and drool dog bones. B, they ran a TV ad with a boy using his Easy Bake Oven to melt his sister's Barbie...
SAGAL: ...Or C, they just painted it black and rebranded it The Automatic Uzi Food Shooter Gun.
HAN: I'm going to guess B.
SAGAL: You're going to guess B - the TV ad using his Easy Bake Oven to melt his sister's Barbie.
SAGAL: If they had done that, they would have sold them to boys.
SAGAL: What they did was they called it the Queasy Bake Cookerator.
HIGGINS: Oh, my god.
SAGAL: And all - boys across America were, like, come on.
SAGAL: All right. You have one more chance, and you can win it all. Here's your last question. Sometimes toys teach kids the wrong lesson, like which of these following Cold War-era products? A, Mommy's A Spy - a card game that made kids think their parents were Soviet spies...
SAGAL: ...B, the safe, harmless, giant atomic bomb toy, which you could use to shoot fake atomic bombs at your friends...
SAGAL: ...Or C, My First Gorbachev - a home tattoo kit where you could paint your own forehead birthmark...
SAGAL: ...Just like the final Soviet leader.
HIGGINS: Wow (laughter).
HAN: Yeah, that's dark.
SAGAL: It is a little dark.
HAN: But I guess I'll go for B.
SAGAL: You're going to go for B - the safe, harmless, giant atomic bomb. You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
BURKE: Oh, my...
SAGAL: The whole country's, like...
SAGAL: ...Looked like a little bomb. Had a cap on the thing, so you threw it, and instead of a mushroom cloud, you got a bop.
HONG: Oh, wow.
SAGAL: Very exciting.
HONG: How fun.
SAGAL: Yeah, very exciting.
SAGAL: Bill, how did Jenny Han do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Just like a Jenny book, she came out a winner...
KURTIS: ...Two out of three.
SAGAL: Jenny Han is the author of many best-selling books, including "To All The Boys I've Loved Before." The Netflix adaptation of that book is streamable (ph) now.
Jenny Han, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
HAN: Thank you, guys.
(SOUNDBITE OF WILD NOTHING SONG, "CHINATOWN")
SAGAL: It just a minute, we rocket to the moon in our Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.
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