Author: Rachael Allen (Twitter)
Publish Date: June 17, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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.
It doesn't happen to often, but sometimes I crave a lighter contemporary read bases more upon subtle human emotions than the base nature of humankind. 17 First Kisses seemed to specifically fit the bill with my craving for lighter summer reads becoming more prevalent. Author, Rachael Allen, has crafted a debut novel that speaks the truth about coming of age, navigating teenage friendships, the complexity of trying to find love at such a young age and the depth of emotions coursing through teenage veins. Sweet, satisfying and tenuous, it's the type of novel you'll keep in your heart long past a summer fling.
I had my doubts when I began reading 17 First Kisses, if only because such novels have proven to be trite and cliche before. I went in with an open mind though, and I was pleased to discover that Ms. Allen has given us a novel that reads far truer and sweeter than many otherwise similar novels. Rather that simply give us the social circles of high school in a manner that's entirely cliche, she develops her otherwise stereotyped characters - the Queen Bee, the cheerleaders, the cliques - and turns those stereotypes on their heads. We suddenly see these overdone characters in a new, true and valid light that's three-dimensional, tangible and real, which separates it from the crowd.
Furthermore, it must be said that Claire was the perfect protagonist for 17 First Kisses. I had expected her to be the sweet nerd looking to find love, but it turned out she ran in the inner circle of high school, presenting me with a unique challenge in trying to find some sort of common ground with her. Some of her actions, including her quest for the perfect guy, were dubious at best, and I felt a disconnect with her from the start. I found it interesting, however, that Ms. Allen crafted a romantic story that was less about finding romance than Claire finding herself. That, in all seriousness, is why this novel worked for me in the end.
17 First Kisses features an easy-to-read, likable writing style with dialogue that's extremely reminiscent of high school and, therefore, rings true. There is also some incredible humour peppered throughout the novel, lightening the atmosphere and giving readers a hint of warmth in what is, at times, a tenuous tale if you're well past high school like myself. My one real qualm with the novel is the love interest, actually. I felt as though Luke read completely disingenuous, despite looking and speaking like the penultimate guy. I would have much rather had a sweeter, more relatable love interest for the masses.
Overall, I think that 17 First Kisses was a fun, light and engaging summer read that will work for a lot of readers. Though I had a few minor issues with it, I loved the author's clear, crisp writing style, and I'll definitely be on the lookout for more from her in the future. I give this book a very high 3.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy summer reads and contemporary fiction.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.