Tuesday, April 21, 2015

If We Kiss review

If We Kiss
by Rachel Vail
Harper Collins
May 2005

First line: "Kevin Lazarus stopped in front of me in the hall, turned around, and asked me if I was ready for the bio quiz."

Fourteen year old freshman Charlotte (who goes by the nickname Charlie) is harboring a crush on Kevin Lazarus -- and things in her life go disastrously wrong after a quick, unromantic kiss between them. First, Kevin doesn't seem to return her feelings, leaving her hanging after he dragged her out to the schoolyard for a little make-out session. Then, Charlie's best friend Tess starts dating Kevin. Charlie ends up being pressured into going out with unexciting George. And to add final humiliation to it all, Charlie's divorced mother starts dating Kevin's father, meaning that Kevin is fated to become her step-brother. 

Vail does a superb job of capturing the awkward, self-concious voice of early teenhood. For all of her pondering about kissing, Charlie is very young for her age. She throws a party and one of her classmates comments that it feels like a seventh-grade party. That feels about right. The subject matter - forbidden romance between step-siblings - could go very dark indeed, but the overall tone is light, even when Charlie stews over her feelings. Charlie is very pragmatic about her situation, she's not deep or passionate. Charlie's friend Tess, even though she's supposedly more "mature" and experienced than Charlie comes off as oddly childlike as well. At one point, during a sleepover, Tess decides to wash her face and holds her hair back by wearing a pair of used undies on her head. Very strange.

I truly expected something more dramatic such as Charlie deciding to run away from home, or for her to make plans to move in with her father. I thought she might have a huge blowout fight with her mother, and demand an end to the horrible situation she's been put in. This is, after all, the kind of untenable situation that could drive a mother and daughter apart for the rest of their lives. Instead, Charlie kind of quietly bears up under the strain. She doesn't confront her mother until the very end of the book, and even then, doesn't admit that she and Kevin have kissed. She and her mother have a tiff and her mother simply feels that Charlie objects to her dating again. Not that it really matters, but I felt that Charlie very much had the prior claim. She and Kevin kiss before anyone else gets involved. Charlie seems much sharper and bitchier when she has an eventual falling out with Tess.

The story ends on a fairly anticlimactic note with a storybook wedding between Charlie's mom and Kevin's dad, as Charlie realizes that she likes ho-hum George after all.

Compare to:
Forbidden - Tabitha Suzima
Lucky - Rachel Vail
Everything I Was - Corinne Demas

I borrowed this book from the library.

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