Published by HarperTeen, the print edition is 352 pages.
Note: This review is based on an eARC received from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.
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.
17 FIRST KISSES is a story that is at first glance funny, sweet and delightfully charming, but as the story progresses it develops into a story with quite a bit of depth, one that introduces conflict and challenges and delivers a number of important messages. It has moments that are beautiful and others that are incredibly sad. It is moving and engaging, extending beyond a contemporary romance, giving readers something to think about.
The story alternates between the present and the past, revealing more about the main character Claire with each look back at points in time in her life that surround her “first” kisses. Some are light and humorous, others more serious. But with every step back in time, readers will be able to make a stronger connection with Claire. They’ll get to see her as more than just superficial, someone living in her friend Megan’s shadow. Someone who is thoughtful and caring, and someone who makes mistakes but is able to learn from then.
When Claire first meets Luke she makes an instant connection with him. She thinks he’s the boy worth abandoning her self-imposed hiatus from kissing. She wants him to be her next “first” kiss. It’s not just his looks or the fact that he plays soccer. She thinks he can relate to what she’s going through with her family. She thinks he’s the only one who really gets her.
But when her friend Megan reveals that she also likes him, and that he just might like her, Claire is crushed. But she’s not going to give up. Because she’s sure that she wasn’t the only one who felt a spark. And Luke is definitely someone worth fighting for… even if her friend Sam doesn’t seem to agree.
Author Rachael Allen strikes the perfect balance in 17 FIRST KISSES between it being heartfelt and lighthearted. She introduces a character that is strong and confident, but not too perfect, making her very relatable. She gets her messages across without them feeling out-of-character for Claire. And she presents the story in a way that will make readers smile, laugh and maybe even cry.
17 FIRST KISSES is an incredibly entertaining, fast, fun and utterly enchanting read that touches on issues of self-worth, love, family and friendships and all the challenges involved with finding the right person with whom to share a first kiss.
On a Personal Note…
I was really surprised by this story. In a good way, of course. But I did not expect there to be layers to it. I thought it was just going to be a story about two girls who like one boy and the competition between the two to “win” him. I expected light and fluffy. And while there was definitely lightness and humor, there was much more than fluff.
The description hinted at more, but I thought that was regarding Claire and Megan’s friendship. I didn’t expect it to be about what it was about… which I won’t reveal. Because that would be spoiler-y. But that brought me to tears. It was just so sad.
But it wasn’t all sad. And it wasn’t all serious. I loved the humor in this story. I cracked up more than once during the read. Between the things that happened, the thoughts that Claire had, and some of the things she said, I was laughing out loud. Often.
I also loved the love story. But I can’t really talk about that. Because that is most definitely spoiler-y. But if you read through all the way to the end, you’ll know exactly why I adore it.
Using each of Claire’s thirteen first kisses to reveal what happened in the past was just so clever. (Yes I know there were seventeen, but only thirteen were in the past.) I was so excited to find out what happened during those times in her life, even when some were bittersweet or heartbreaking instead of hilarious.
I didn’t think I was going to like Claire very much when I first met her. I thought she was going to be Megan’s puppet, given what she was willing to do for her friend in that first chapter. But she also surprised me. She was someone who was very confident about who she was and she grew even stronger throughout the story.
She wasn’t perfect, but I know I wouldn’t have adored her if she was. She was thoughtful and self-aware and hopeful and loyal and willing to forgive and so funny and I really liked getting to know her.
I knew I was going to like 17 FIRST KISSES when I first read the description. And while the reasons I do like it differ from why I thought I would initially, those reasons actually make me love it even more.
There are two beautiful and heartwrenching passages that I absolutely loved. One which breaks my heart every time I try and read it. But as they are so important to the story and to what happened with Claire, I didn’t think I should reveal either of them here.
Instead, I chose a passage that made me laugh. Out loud. In the middle of the night.
He winks at me, and I’m momentarily startled by his eyes. They’re blue and dreamy and everything, but there’s something else, something shuttered, and that’s the part I find myself strangely drawn to. If my life were one of those paranormal romances, he would be the guy that turns out to be a were-manatee or whatever.