17 First Kisses
By Rachael Allen
Publication date: June 17, 2014
HarperTeen, 352 pages
No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.
Until Claire meets Luke.
But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.
With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.
In her moving debut, Rachael Allen brilliantly captures the complexities of friendship, the struggles of self-discovery, and the difficulties of trying to find love in high school. Fans of Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, and Stephanie Perkins will fall head over heels for this addictive, heartfelt, and often hilarious modern love story.
— Goodreads.com description
Rachael Allen’s 17 First Kisses is filled with bitter female friendships, player dudes and plenty of backstabbing. Does that happen in high school? Oh yeah. All the time.
So maybe that’s why this was a bit of a rough read for me. I kept thinking of the poor girl out there somewhere who is actually dealing with this, and it made me feel sick to my stomach.
Still, I know a lot of you love this type of story and have much higher tolerance for it than I do. But, hey, I’m a wimp and I don’t deal well with cheating stories.
Yet, I had no problem reading through to the end – and I’m a big ole book quitter so I guess that means something. What do you think? Will you give it a try?
Life by Committee
By Corey Ann Haydu
Publication date: May 13, 2014
Katherine Tegen Books, 304 pages
Some secrets are too good to keep.
Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.
Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.
Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.
Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.
But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?
— Goodreads.com description
Was there cheating, aka the thing I hate to read about most? Yeah.
Will some of you have trouble stomaching the main character? Probably.
Did I have a major case of Old Lady Syndrome, both in terms of rooting for Tabitha to rise above the mean girls and in terms of going WHYYYY TABITHA WHYYYYY with every bad choice she made? Oh yeah.
Did Life by Committee work for me anyway? Totally!
The concept is beyond interesting, in a Post Secret-y way that made me feel simultaneously intrigued and woozy/uncomfortable. I found I could relate to Corey Ann Haydu’s characters, flaws and all. Tabitha, especially, is such a strong character as she learns so much throughout the course of the book. And the writing was lovely.
It definitely made me want to dig through my archives to check out Haydu’s previous work, OCD Love Story.
So, what do you guys think? Have you read this one yet? What about OCD Love Story?
Unbreak My Heart
By Melissa Walker
Publication date: May 22, 2012
Bloomsbury USA, 240 pages
Source: Publisher, via NetGalley
Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life. Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now. Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart? Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.
— Goodreads.com description
There’s something you should know about me as a reader: I cannot tolerate stories about cheating.
It’s really important for me to have respect for a main character. Some authors purposely make their characters unlikable…and I just can’t do it. I need to relate to them, to cheer for them. So when a main character is a cheater? No. No way. Just something I personally have a hard time looking past.
And in Melissa Walker’s Unbreak My Heart, it’s pretty clear from the get-go that some type of cheating happened, but we don’t know what exactly went down. I mean, the book description says it: Clem fell for her best friend’s boyfriend.
So you’d think I’d hate it, right?
NO! I LOVED THIS BOOK.
What?! I know, right?
I think, for me, part of what I hate about books that tackle cheating is when they let me get invested in a relationship, then – wham! blam! – cheatfest. I HATE that. I feel emotionally manipulated.
I also feel this way when a book ends up secretly being about death. JOHN GREEN, I AM LOOKING AT YOU. I won’t name that book. But in his book The Fault in His Stars? Totally knew that was about death from the get-go, and I loved it.
Same rules apply here, apparently.
Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker is not really about the cheating – none of it happens in the present tense. Instead, it’s about Clementine’s struggle to forgive herself and move on and about how her family relates to her during her resulting depression. And I felt myself rooting for her because of this. I also loved how Walker tackled the double-standard in cheating. Why is Clem the outcast one while the boy is immediately taken back and forgiven? Lame.
And, oh, sure, the love story bit and the fact that they were out yachting around America in the summertime helped. I love summer books! I love kissing books! I DOUBLE LOVE kissing in the summer books.
Anyway, cheers to Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker for getting me to step outside my comfort zone and, for once in my life, cheer on the cheater. It helped me grow as a reader, and that’s what good reads are all about.
Kiss Crush Collide
By Christina Meredith
Publish date: Dec. 27, 2011
Greenwillow Books, 320 pages
What Leah did—only she really shouldn’t have—one hot night at a country club party.
What Leah has—only she really shouldn’t have—on the guy with the green eyes, the guy who is not her perfect boyfriend, the guy who does not fit in her picture-perfect life, the guy her sisters will only mock and her mother will never approve of. Not in a million years.
What happens when everything you always thought you wanted—having cool friends, being class valedictorian and homecoming queen—runs smack into everything it turns out you really do want.
Kiss. Crush. Collide.
— Amazon.com description
I usually really hate books that involve cheating or thoughts of cheating. And Leah has a boyfriend when starts to show interest in this “bad boy” from across town.
But the thing is that he doesn’t seem like that much of a bad boy, and her boyfriend is a total bore, soooo…who am I right now…but that was sort of enough for me to throw my morals out the window and root for the Cheaty McCheatersons.
WHAT?! I know, right?
Still, I never fully connected to any of the characters, so this book just didn’t work for me overall. I see why people might compare it to Simone Elkeles books, given the subject matter and the racy cover, but it just doesn’t stand up to her level. Still, I think it did make for an easy, summery read.
Love & Leftovers
By Sarah Tregay
Dec. 27, 2011
Katherine Tegen Books, 448 pages
My wish is to fall cranium over Converse in dizzy daydream-worthy love.
If only it were that easy.
Marcie has been dragged away from home for the summer—from Idaho to a family summerhouse in New Hampshire. She’s left behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including her emo-rocker boyfriend, and her father.
By the time Labor Day rolls around, Marcie suspects this “summer vacation” has become permanent. She has to start at a new school, and there she leaves behind her Leftover status when a cute boy brings her breakfast and a new romance heats up. But understanding love, especially when you’ve watched your parents’ affections end, is elusive. What does it feel like, really? Can you even know it until you’ve lost it?
Love & Leftovers is a beautifully written story of one girl’s journey navigating family, friends, and love, and a compelling and sexy read that teens will gobble up whole.
— Amazon.com description
Last year, I saw the light when it came to verse novels. Lisa Schroeder’s The Day Before won me over, through and through.
Tregay’s writing — beautiful, easy-to-consume verse — confirmed that. I sped through this book, loving everything from the formatting to the flow of this story told in poems.
Unfortunately, it was the story that made things a little rough for me. A slight spoiler here, thought it’s implied in the book description: There’s a bunch of lying and cheating. This is a hard subject matter for me to read about, just because it makes me SO ANGRY. So, for me, that was hard to get past. Those who don’t get that riled up will definitely react differently because I do think it was handled pretty well, and the romance was still quite sweet, despite all that nasty stuff.
Either way you look at it, this is just further confirmation for me that I should give verse novels a go, and I would definitely check out more books from Sarah Tregay in the future. Does anyone have any non-Ellen Hopkins* recommendations?
* Not that I have anything against Ellen’s or her books! They’re just a little too issue-oriented for me.