If We Kiss, Book 1
Author: Rachel Vail
Description from Goodreads:
What would happen if we kiss?
Kevin led me quickly around the side of the building, then stopped. I managed not to crash into him. I tried to look calm, cool, unperturbed. I told myself not to laugh, especially not a snorting kind of laugh. "Wha . . . what did . . ."
And then he kissed me.
If We Kiss is the story of Charlotte (Charlie to her friends), who finds herself falling for a boy who is off-limits. Her best friend is in love with him, and her mother and his father are dating. Still, Charlie can't help but wonder, what would happen if we kiss?
First Sentence: "Kevin Lazarus stopped in front of me in the hall, turned around, and asked me if I was ready for the bio quiz."
Rachel Vail depicts Charlotte, better known as Charlie, as a sort of average girl. She's pretty and witty (though in a quirky way most people don't get), but feels inferior to her more attractive and more outgoing best friend, Tess. Where Tess has already dated and kissed several boys, Charlie's never even been tempted.
Then Kevin Lazarus begins messing with her head. He kisses her, suddenly, one morning before school after minimal interactions, her first kiss. The scene is awkward and uncomfortable, and very much not the fireworks and magic of so many first kisses in fiction. Despite that, Charlie is sure that she must be in love with Kevin, because what kind of girl would kiss a boy she doesn't even love? Later, at Charlie's party, she finds Kevin kissing Tess. Oh, the course of young love never did run smooth.
Both Tess and Charlie fancy themselves in love with Kevin after one kiss, just like happens in so many YA books and probably to so many teens. The difference from YA books with instalove, though, is how obvious it is that these girls have merely a passing fancy. They are naive, learning about love by making silly mistakes like this one. Charlie's misguided notions of love and prudishness are childish, but she does at least learn through the course of the novel, during which she makes a number of really bad decisions.
These decisions are where the Ruby Oliver comparison really becomes apt. Like in the Lockhart series, the trouble in If We Kiss stems from best friends with crushes on the same boy not being totally up front with one another. The only way to make it through such a situation with friendship unscathed is honesty at every moment. Unfortunately, such an assuredly unpleasant conversation seems quite daunting to a young heroine like Charlie, and she has to suffer the consequences of her choices to omit the truth.
Vail does add side stories about Charlie joining the newspaper and her family. Thought Charlie only joins the newspaper to get to know Kevin better, she becomes quite passionate about it. In fact, this is pretty much the only time she does not think about Kevin. In these moments, the reader gets a little window into the person Charlie could become, someone honest, motivated and intent on justice. She clearly has a long way to go to get there, but her experiences with lying will likely help her discover how important truth really is.
In an odd, yet predictable, turn of events, Charlie's mom and Kevin's dad have been dating. This happens a lot in fiction, and it's a very strange thing. Do teens with romantic pasts together really end up step-siblings so frequently? This subplot seems largely a setup for shenanigans and added drama. However, there are some good moments of bonding between Charlie and her mother.
There's one really weird thing about this book, and, frankly, I feel a bit silly belaboring it, but I'm going to anyway. Early in the book, Tess, sleeping over at Charlie's house, wants a headband so she can wash her face but Charlie doesn't have one. Since Tess is totally comfortable stripping down, she takes her underwear off and puts it on her head to hold her hair back. Later, I guess to see what it's like to be like Tess, Charlie puts her own underwear on her head. Am I the only one really grossed out by this? I mean, by all means put clean underwear on your head, but don't just whip off your dirty underwear and make it a hat, especially if you're not going to wash your hair right after. Or maybe I'm weird, but I'm not a neat freak, so mostly I thought that was just really strange.
If you're looking for a light, funny young adult romance, If I Kiss fits the bill. Though occasionally frustrating, I think Vail sends a good message about teen romance and learning what you want out of relationships. I really enjoyed the ending of the book, and am very curious to see what happens in the sequel, Kiss Me Again.
Favorite Quote: "I have to tell Tess I like him, too, I realized. I have to just tell her I didn't know I did, but I do. I like Kevin. And then there it would be and since we are best friends, always honest with each other, we would flip a coin for him or something."