Expected publication: January 5th 2016 by Speak
Format read: ARC via publisher
It’s 1986 and sixteen-year-old Zoe Brenner’s world revolves around Depeche Mode, Judd Nelson, exercise-obsessed parents, and her best friend Jonah. She may not be the most popular girl in school (okay, not even close), but her only real concern is surviving daily life at Castle Heights High. Then one day, in a freak Fun-Dip choking accident, Zoe falls unconscious, and awakes in the year 2016. She looks and feels the same, but everything else is totally different, and Zoe needs Jonah’s help to make sense of it all. There’s just one problem: in this life, Zoe is the most popular girl in school, and doesn’t associate with nerds like Jonah. And though Zoe tries to convince him they are best friends, Jonah only knows Zoe as the superficial queen bee she’s “always” been.
As Zoe juggles new technology, attempts to hide her enthusiasm for poet blouses, and manages to keep her super jock boyfriend at bay, she desperately searches for ways of returning to the ’80s. Jonah may be her only hope. But will he agree to help her? And more importantly, does Zoe really want to leave?
Author Robin Palmer introduces us to Zoe, who is an average girl in the '80s. She loves The Breakfast Club, has parents that are involved in the exercise craze, and just wants to survive high school.
But an unfortunate run-in with Fun Dip sends Zoe into the future, where she ends up with a life where she's now the Queen Bee, with a perfect best friend and perfect boyfriend. However, all Zoe wants to do is to get back to the '80s...
What's great about Once Upon A Kiss is that Robin Palmer clearly understands what readers are looking for when they pick up the book. She doles out '80s references with a wink and a nod, immersing us to the point where I almost felt like turning on some old school Madonna while reading.
Though she makes it clear that Zoe is very much a fish-out-of-water in modern day, Palmer also wisely shows Zoe's youthful capacity for adapting to the situation at hand. Rather than have Zoe constantly committing social and personal faux pas, Zoe's actually fairly quick on her feet, and manages to reinvigorate her '80s sensibilities, into 2015 popularity.
It's a pretty fine testament to the capacity of young people to adapt to challenges and find unique solutions, and I think that any reader of any age will appreciate Palmer's firm nod to Zoe's capacity. And while Zoe's friends react in the expected way, it only strengthens Zoe's character, when she refuses to give into the crowd mentality.
While the book follows a fairly steady path, Palmer still has one or two more tricks up her sleeve. Zoe connects with Jonah in her attempts to go home in a relationship that's fairly reminiscent of Jennifer Garner's character in 13 Going on 30, which leads to an ending that reminds readers that just because things don't work out one way, it doesn't mean you can't make the best of what you've got.
Through Zoe, Palmer teasingly shows us just how strange our modern reliance on technology can be, and also reiterates the importance of learning how to find your allies and cope with tough situations. While Zoe's situation is far from ideal, it's her friendship with Jonah that helps save the day, and makes this story a memorable one.
Recommend for fans of Kasie West and Meg Cabot. Also, if you - like me - are a fan of the '80s, then this is definitely a title for you.
About the author:
Robin Palmer graduated from Boston University in 1990 and moved to Hollywood where she worked in television for ten years before regaining her sanity and quitting her job to write. In addition to her modern retellings of fairy tales (the second of which—Geek Charming—was made into a movie for Disney Channel) she is also the author of various screenplays and television pilots. After six years in New York City, she regained her sanity again and now lives in Louisiana with her husband and daughter.