~~~~~ 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*
But I still 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.
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.
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 together strongly (she's still my BFF!) and 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".
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.
Back to the good, 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.
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! ...more
Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed in the story. There were parts that I thought were just hysterical, and others that had me questioning why I was reading it in the first place. Here are some things that bothered me
Blake was painted as a pretty heinous character in The Boyfriend App, and I liked hating her. She was such a bitch! So I just didn't buy into her 180-degree about-face to be a better person. People don't change that much that quickly!
I was never invested in the Blake/Leo romance. Here's this seemingly nice guy who is also brilliant and even though Blake was kind of a snarky bitch, he still liked her anyway. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN.
The reality show portion just didn't feel believable. It read like Sise wanted to get from point A to point C, without giving B any real meat in the story. Quick! Let's get through this reality show so we can get to a HEA! So much time was spent on the build-up to it, and not enough time on the actual event.
I never connected with the friendship Blake and Audrey sort of maybe rekindled.
All of a sudden, all the trogs are rooting for her, after she treated them like complete shit? THIS ALSO DOES NOT HAPPEN.
The ending was too clean for all the shitty things Blake had done. What happened to karma?!
It was sadly predictable. I knew what was going to happen almost from the beginning.
(view spoiler)[ Leo is an undercover student at Harrison. How the hell did no one out him when he was announced as a judge on the Pretty App Live panel? Everyone at Harrison High knew him because he was cliche smart and gorgeous, so why did no one mention on social media that they knew who he was? THAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE! (hide spoiler)]
Things I liked
While Blake was pretty superficial, Sise showed that she had more depth to her than we originally thought. Being in her head with her insecurities was enlightening and made me sympathize with her a little.
The hot guy was also smart. That's always a nice bonus.
She was incredibly vain, and not at all ashamed of that. You would think that would be a trait I didn't like, but damn if she wasn't honest about herself!
The caricature of Justin Bieber in Danny Beaton was in one word....HYSTERICAL. The personality was everything I beliebe Bieber would be like in person.
It pokes fun at the ridiculousness of social media with the reality show, the PublicParty app, etc.
The story arc with her sister Samantha was very sweet, and I enjoyed seeing the come back together as siblings.
Blake had some snarky inner-dailogue that made me laugh:
"I could've listed a lot of things I wanted: for my dad to love me unconditionally, for Leo to show up at the baggage claim and say he couldn't live a Blake-free life, for my ass to always stay this high."
"She was the kind of girl who could make farts sexy. Or the name Delores."
"The next afternoon we were all sitting in an upperclassman seminar called College Prep, which was supposedly meant to motivate the juniors and prepare the seniors. But it was mostly about study habits and not about stuff we really needed to know, like how to date two guys at once without looking like a ho."
"As much as I loved the cameras, they made certain things really hard, like adjusting your underwear, yawning, getting something out of your teeth, or - God forbid - farting."
Verdict Overall, The Pretty App is like a tech-crazed Mean Girls, with a reality show spin, while poking fun at some of our sexist traditions. It wasn't terrible but I had a hard time really getting into it. I think younger audiences will like it (but probably miss some of the satire).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Even when you don't have kids, it's hard to read a story about child trafficking. Perhaps especially if you are a girl. Little Peach by Peg
Even when you don't have kids, it's hard to read a story about child trafficking. Perhaps especially if you are a girl. Little Peach by Peggy Kern is short at 200 pages, and yet it sends an incredibly powerful message of loss and the search for love. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed reading it... in fact, I spent most of the book very uncomfortable with the subject matter. But that was the point of the story: to make the reader uncomfortable and bring to light a real problem that faces many young girls in this country. Little Peach is narrated by Michelle, as the story unfolds to a case worker in the hospital. The point of view is unique: first person, present tense, and speaking directly to someone. It's told in Befores and Nows, not quite in alternating chapters, but close enough. More time is spent in the past, as Michelle's story unfolds.
And it is tragic. Michelle is so smart; smart enough to know her circumstances at home are wrong, and wrong enough to send herself away to NYC with nothing but $50 and a pillow and blanket. Little Peach illustrates the internal struggles of young girls like Michelle, who have no one, no self-confidence and are ripe for pimps to pluck them from train terminals because - "Unlike a bag of heroin, a girl can be sold again and again."
"You see me, Mama? I'm not your kid anymore."
Her regression from fear of being employed as a prostitute to her fear of leaving (classic Stockholm Syndrome) her pimp was fast and smooth. Devon knew exactly what words to say to tear her down and build her into the child sex slave her wanted her to be. His small lessons were imparted through his kind words and his callous actions. How can anyone in her situation have resisted such a sneaky, slimy way into the psyche with promises of a brighter future while she lives in the dark places of the world? My heart broke for her.
"We got real patients to take care of, you know. People who really need help."
Then my heart broke for other victims like her. People stare at child sex slaves on the street, judgement in their eyes. The nurse who helps the poor girl whose pimp got her addicted to meth, coke, or any other drug, doesn't want to help her because people see them as lost causes. Maybe the onlookers are the lost cause. Not doing anything is the worst of all.
“We don’t talk for the rest of the night, but I know we’re both thinking about her. Cristina Wakeman. The girl someone is looking for.”
Michelle’s internal struggles were a small light in a dark room. Despite her building loyalty to her “daddy” and the world she had been sucked into, she still knew it was wrong and wrestled with herself to do the right things. Her loss of innocence made me feel wretched.
Kern’s writing is fluid and organic to her characters. She shows how easily someone can succumb to their surroundings, especially via language. Her message was loud and brutal, and her emotions come right off the pages.
Little Peach gutted me. It is a must read for girls and women everywhere....more