Today, I'm reviewing 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen! I was lucky enough to read this months ago, and ended up falling in love with Rachael's lovely writing and beautiful characters.
Published June 17th 2014 by HarperTeen
Format read: E-ARC via Edelweiss
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.
Debut author Rachael Allen introduces us to Claire and Megan: two best friends who have each gone through their share of romances, without finding the right boyfriend, even though it always feels like Megan wins out in the end. However, they both end up falling for the same guy this time around, and that's when things get complicated…
I've read plenty of coming-of-age novels in the past several years, but none which have struck me quite so much as 17 First Kisses. From the very first page, Allen masterfully showcases the complexities of growing up and trying to find your version of a happily-ever-after, even as you realize that not everything you believed - whether it's happy families or cute boys - is as perfect or ideal as you have initially believed.
Part of that is accomplished through Allen's clever decision to have part of Claire's story be revealed in vignettes that run parallel to the main storyline. Readers learn how Claire and Megan's lives have evolved over time, including family drama, jerky boyfriends, and evolving personal interests, all of which have continued to shape their views of what they want in their lives and their futures.
The main storyline of the triangle between Claire, Megan and Luke is nicely done as well. Allen isn't afraid to shy away from the petty jealousies and slight jabs that will occur even between friends when a cute boy appears on the scene, but also gently reminds readers that it's friendship that will always be the most important thing. There's a definite reminder that relationships will come and go, but friendships will be forever - including friendships in unexpected places - which is a strong lesson for all readers
Of special note for parents and educators: as Blythe points out in her review, some readers may find issue with the fact that the there is a certain degree of slut-shaming in the book. However, I personally believe that Allen's inclusion of those scenes is not only highly realistic, but also handled in a way that is intelligent and well-reasoned, and will make readers think about similar events within their lives.
Allen does the same with the family dynamics which she explores in the book. She's profoundly honest with the stark realities and time involved with family drama and loss, but also optimistic and realistic as things begin to change for the better.
Finally, without giving any spoilers away: the ending is also perfect. Allen truly knows what it means to write that perfect ending which fully showcases a character's arc while also staying absolutely true their characterization and growth.
But what I got was a thoughtful, beautifully-written debut novel on first loves, the importance of family, and most importantly, finding strength in your friendships and in yourself, as you begin to work through the weird, marvelous journey that is life.
I highly recommend this book for fans of contemporary fiction of all ages. Readers will love both Claire and Megan, cheering for them as they begin to follow their passions, while also remaining true to their friendship.
I recommend this book for fans of Sarah Ockler and Huntley Fitzpatrick.