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. Was. Floored. by this book. 100% not what I expected, and I’m so glad I picked it up. I received an ARC of this book a while back from HarperTeen to review, however I was deep in revisions for my now querying MS, so I wasn’t reading much. However, I picked it up, on a whim, because my brain was fried and I really wanted to read something light and funny and a book about a girl who falls for this guy she can’t have, why not?
17 FIRST KISSES blew me away. I still laugh (I’m laughing right now) when I think back to the first chapter. OMG. At first you think it’s one thing, I think Allen knows that, and then she switches everything up and you’re on the floor laughing…total girl power moment. Gotta love Claire and Megan. And speaking of Claire and Megan their friendship reminded me of so many past friendships I’ve had, and let me say I’m very glad the book wrapped up the way it did. I was a Claire throughout high school and this book brought back memories I’d
forgotten suppressed, so it was like a bittersweet trip through memory lane that I was surprisingly willing to go on. It made me remember high school crushes that never became any more than that and most of all the many wishes and dreams and goals I had back then, the first of which being, like Claire, to get the hell out of my hometown (which, I did although it’s funny how leaving a place makes you want to return).
I think my favorite part about this book (aside from how much I related to it) is the relationships. Allen is gifted with being able to weave together various story lines to, in the end, create one amazing culmination. I liked how after every chapter there was a story about each one of Claire’s seventeen kisses. The 16th and 17th were my favorites 😉 So, as you’re reading, you not only learn more about how Claire reached this “legendary” amount of kisses, you learn about her relationships–her friendships with Megan, Sam, Amberly…her relationships with her sisters and her parents, and most of all, the tragedy that struck her family, which is something that hit close to home for me and left me wracking with tears. You also get to learn about Claire. The “kiss” sections were 1) an ingenious idea because who doesn’t love reading about kisses (some horrible, some hilarious) and 2) a great way of learning about how Claire becomes the person she is. You gain so much respect for her, but you also want to conk her over the head at times.
I appreciated how this book didn’t shy away from tough issues or things that actually happen to teens. I don’t read a lot of Contemporary novels, at least I didn’t until this year, yet this book is making me completely rethink the YA Contemporary Romance genre. You see, reading for me starting as an escape into new world. Contemporary set stories, without fantasy elements, are often too real for me, but the thing is that’s just what you need sometimes. I’ve never read Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, or Stephanie Perkins (*gasp* I know), but you can bet I will now.
If you want a book that’s incredibly grounded and feels very real, one that will make you laugh and cry (quite possibly at the same time), and a book that will restore your faith in the power of friendship, and, most of all, the strength within you to change your life, you need to read this book. I don’t have the book with me, but there’s a quote I remember that has been making me rethink some of my relationships. It has something to do with reevaluating people and really seeing them for who they are instead of what box you automatically put them in when you first met them. I think we all, at least I do, have that friend or family member we don’t appreciate that person who shares bits of themselves with us, yet we don’t open up to them. 17 FIRST KISSES is a reminder that everyone deserves a second chance and that sometimes the people who are most deserving of your love & attention are those who have trusted you even when you didn’t trust them.
Also, if you’re thinking this review is a bit on the vague side, I would say you’re right. I think it’s best to go into this story not knowing much except that 1) it won’t be about what you think it is and 2) you’ll really like it and/or love it.
*This is a 100% honest review, I received a copy of the book from the publisher (thank you!).*
About the Author
Rachael Allen lives in Atlanta, GA where she’s working furiously on her PhD in neuroscience. When she’s not doing science or writing YA, you can find her chasing after her toddler and her two sled dogs. Her debut YA novel 17 FIRST KISSES, is forthcoming from Harper Teen. Rachael may or may not have had 17 first kisses…luckily she doesn’t kiss and tell.
Anyone have any juicy first kiss stories they’d like to share? 😉