This book was received in exchange for an honest review. We were not compensated for our opinion of this title.
Published by Harper Teen on 6/17/2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
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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.
I picked up 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen at a Young Adult DC holiday party in January (we were late, don’t judge). Honestly, I saw the cover and thought it would be a light, fluffy read so I snagged it during our ARC swap.
It wasn’t. Damn you, deceiving covers! *shakes fist*
It was actually pretty complex
I really liked it! In fact, I feel like the cover and title are incredibly misleading and don’t do the story or synopsis any justice because I liked it so much more than I would have had it been what I was expected. Instead of a light-hearted romcom about teenage love, I got a complicated story about friendship between two girls.
The friendship is beautiful, yet fragile
I really, really identified with this story. Female relationships are already difficult and can be tenuous during the high school years. Not only is there a struggle of competition between pretty much all girls, but throw teenage hormones, boys and insecurity into this mix and you have an easily combustible and fragile relationship.
In 17 First Kisses, Claire and Megan fall into this trap. These two girls couldn’t have been more different, and yet they both relied on and complimented each other in a strange and beautiful way. Despite their differences, petty competitions and boy problems, I got the feeling that they were truly friends in that deep connection kind of way. In fact, some of it reminded me of my own high school experiences, from which my best friend and I came out of (she’s still my BFF!) with a deep friendship that makes us family. I should note that we are in our mid-30s. We have been best friends for literally 2/3’s of our lives!
That’s the kind of friendship that I saw in Claire and Megan. That’s what made me like this book so much. I especially enjoyed the group friendship they shared with Amberly and Brittainy. Both Amberly and Brittainy seemed like fringe friends when compared to Claire and Megan’s own special relationship, but it also felt genuine, like they did matter, but would always be ranked second. Claire and Megan were each other’s “person”.
I loved that chapters documented each of Claire’s first kisses with boys. There was much humor and teenage angst in that really believable way. I liked the sarcasm and wit from all of these characters, and especially Claire’s snarky world-view of the boys she has kissed.
Like friendship, it wasn’t perfect
However, I did have some issues with the story. Much of their struggles with each other involved Luke, the hot new guy in town. At first, he’s painted to be this nice guy with family issues and secrets, and I genuinely liked him. But as the story progressed, the execution of his character arc just didn’t flow well for me. It was hard for me to be convinced of one thing, only to find out later that I was wrong. Which might have been the intention all along.
Also, 17 First Kisses takes place in the south in Georgia. But other than some casual mentions of Georgia Tech and UG, plus one small scene where a couple of women stereotypically clutched at their pearls, I got no sense that this was a good ol’ southern small town. And that was disappointing to me because I love stories set in the South. This made it lack some authenticity.
The ending was fairly satisfactory, despite the issues I had with Luke. And I really rooted for those two girls to find their way through the tangles of their friendship. YA contemp fans will adore this compulsively readable book.
“Don’t get me wrong, I totally want to do more than just kiss. But not in a hotel room at prom with a guy I barely know who has beer breath and hairy knuckles and speaks almost entirely in bad sports metaphors.”
*I had an ARC copy, but no idea who I should thank for this since it was in the swap!