June 22, 2014

Title: 17 First Kisses

Author: Rachael Allen ♥ @rachael_allen

Published: June 17, 2014

Publisher: HarperTEEN

Pages: 352

Genre(s): Young Adult ♥ Contemporary ♥ Romance

Source: Edelweiss

Summary from Goodreads: 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.

  • Christina thought this title was refreshingly realistic. It goes on her second shelf. To find out why…

**SPECIAL NOTE:** An eARC of this title was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Initial Thoughts and Rating:
4 stars!
This was a really good book, and not at all the novel I was expecting to read. There was a surprising amount of depth and angst with realistic portrayals of female friendships, high school and its peer pressures, and all the differences in family dynamics and parenting styles, especially after tragedy strikes. It’s a story that I think I’ll reflect on often because of the honest delivery and how the author wasn’t afraid to tackle big issues.

The Lowdown: Claire is in her senior year of high school and, thanks to the encouragement of her popular friends, she’s kissed a lot of frogs on the search for her prince. Her liplocks are a bit of legend on the rumor mill and her acclaimed status of one of the school “sluts” has already been well established. However, after much damage control and keeping her lips on lockdown since sophomore year, her reputation is on the mend and her less-than-stellar actions are all but forgotten. However, being the good girl is starting to get to her. She’s suffering from dull days and decides she’s ready to shake things up. Thus, a new pact with her best friend is made.

     “… So. Pact number five: I will make something different happen this year,” says Megan, as we arrange our hands in the pinky-swear position.
     “Pact number five: I will make something different happen this year,” I repeat. Then I add, “Before I die of boredom.”
~quote taken from the eARC of 17 First Kisses at 3%

So, when new boy Luke arrives at school and they immediately hit it off– he’s smart, attractive, loves soccer just as much as her, and seems to have family problems too– it appears that Claire is about to totally own pact number five’s behind. That is until Claire learns that Megan has her eyes on the new boy as well… and she always get what she wants.

Friendships and loyalties will be tested, betrayals hurt, families have to learn to overcome emotional hurdles, and 17 First Kisses wraps all these issues up in its pages and leaves you feeling everything until the very end. Told in alternating narrations of present day and the glimpses of the past during the times that surrounded each of her kisses, we take a journey with Claire as she learns who she is and where she fits in the world with her friends and family.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed how true-to-life (in my opinion) that the author delivered this novel and its characters. There were a wide range of diverse, multifaceted people to learn and grow with as the story progressed, and I especially valued that she made them sound like actual teenagers– including all the good, the bad, the dumb, and smart decisions we make as we try to figure out how to exist in this crazy thing called life. I was even surprised at how fleshed out a majority of the secondary characters were in this book. Everyone felt real and like they had a role to play, but it all felt organic and flowed easily. As I stated previously, I also appreciated the author’s ability to tackle several important issues– ones that many teenagers, or even adults, are likely to encounter– and handle them all with the severity and respect that they deserved.

I will say that I probably wouldn’t call this a romance so much as a true coming-of-age contemporary, even though it deals with relationships. That’s probably because they aren’t really the biggest topic addressed in the novel, even though it kind of revolves around a few romances. Maybe the reason I’m not hung up on the the romance side of this contemporary is because out of all the boys on a revolving door in and out of Claire’s life, I only ever connected with one and he wasn’t even a boyfriend, just her best friend. (But omg, omg, O!M!G! Did I ever want him to be her boyfriend, which is so freaking odd. I’m forever going on about the lack of guy-girl friendships without it building to more– even though I really love those, too–in YA  and then I was finally given one, and I wanted them to be more. Sam is abso-freaking-lutely adorable and I just wanted to squish him and love him… and then love him some more! Claire, why didn’t you love him!? *takes a breath* Okay, I’m done cheerleading for Sam, but in my head, they totally marry each other after college and have lots of pretty babies. Okay, seriously done now.)

I’m also going to mention the fact that I’ve seen other reviews discuss the matter of slut-shaming in this book, and yes, it’s there, but it is also quite prevalent amongst teenagers in high school. It’s stupid and wrong, especially for one girl to degrade another girl, but it and double standards exist every single day in real life. (I was even guilty of it when I was younger, like fourteen-ish, until my mother sat me down and told me that it was perfectly okay for a girl to explore her sexuality, even though she hoped I’d wait until I was much older, and that it was never my place to judge another girl’s actions. That I should spend my time building girls up and I always tried to do that from then on. But I digress…) The important thing to me, and the reason I’m even mentioning it in this review, is that I feel like Ms. Allen took an opportunity to use the slut-shaming in this book as a teachable moment to the younger girls potentially reading her book.

     Amanda takes a step closer like a prowling animal. “Megan and Britney are the biggest bitches in school, and you and Amberly are the biggest sluts. And everyone is getting tired of it, so watch out.”
     “Yeah,” says the blonde with a flip of her ponytail. “Y’all may not be the queens of the school for much longer.”
     “I don’t care about that stuff. You’re missing the point. Tanner. Cheated. On me. This whole thing started with him. And the other guys in the band are more than capable of making their own decisions. I didn’t force them to kiss me back. I didn’t force Seth and Tanner to fight. You guys act like it’s okay to heap all the blame on the girl but let the guys off with a free pass. Don’t you get how screwed up that is?”

Is it fair that I have to swear off boys while Tanner cheating on me seems to make him even more desirable? Nope. But I can only change me, not everyone else.
~quotes taken from the eARC of 17 First Kisses at 70%

Rec It? Yes, 17 First Kisses may not be wholly original, but I liked the stance the author chose to take and how she decided to write this book. I enjoyed the freshness of this novel and how wonderful it felt to connect to every character in some way because I saw tiny bits of myself, of my past younger self, in almost all of them. I think this novel can easily be used as an educational book without coming across as so, or preachy, just as a very emotional in-depth look at what’s really important and learning those lessons as you grow older.

I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more from this author.

A very special thanks to HarperTEEN and Edelweiss for providing me with an advanced copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

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