17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen

17FirstKissesTitle: 17 First Kisses

Author: Rachael Allen

Genre: Contemporary

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 319

Rating: 4.5/5

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.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.

This book wasn’t on my radar at all until I saw a glowing review of it on A Reader of Fiction. The fact that it was apparently sex-positive and the summary intrigued me rocketed this book to my “books I kind of want right now” list, and I am so glad that I took a chance on it and bought it because I think it’s definitely a new favorite.

The Beginning

From the very beginning, I was hooked. Actually, when I was trying to figure out whether or not to buy it, I read the first page or two and then flipped around a little to make sure that it sounded like something I might like, and it definitely did. When I started reading it for real, I was still just as interested, especially because it began fleshing out the summary and the beginning page or two right away. One of the things I had been worried about based on the summary is that Claire’s best friend, who tends to be her competition for boys, wouldn’t be fleshed out and real and a true friend, but the first chapters squashed that worry right away.

The Plot

The book takes place in Claire’s senior year, but there are also lots of flashbacks to all of those titular first kisses. The plot of the book mainly focused on Claire and Megan’s friendship, Claire’s family drama, romance, and the general stress and fun of one’s senior year of high school and the big scary world beyond it.

The Characters

I loved pretty much all the characters! Claire was an intriguing and awesome protagonist, Megan was so much more than the mean queen bee that other people saw her as, Claire’s family was interesting (especially her mother, the one whom all the drama was focused on after a traumatic event that you have to keep reading to learn about)… really, there were just so many characters that I cared about, with a few that I wasn’t as impressed with but mostly ignored.

One of my favorite characters for sure, though, is Claire and Megan’s other friend (well, one of them – there are four girls in the group), Amberly. She’s the girl in the group who has the most experience with guys, the one who lost her virginity in a bathroom during her freshman year and is the one most likely to be called a slut, which is awful because she’s such an amazing person (not that you can call a person a slut simply because they’re mean – that’s bad too). She was the one who broke my heart the most because she had a bit of a hard life but did her best to overcome it and felt so safe with her friends. There were quite a few sad moments in this book, but for me, one of the saddest ones was when Claire realized that, while Megan was the friend she could open up to about anything, she was that for Amberly. One of the worst things in the world is knowing that your best friend doesn’t consider you her best friend, and I just wanted to hug Amberly because she had to live with that on a daily basis. Her relationship with Claire slowly grows over the course of the book, which I loved, but I wouldn’t have minded reading the whole story again from her point of view, or getting a companion book that follows her to post-high school life to see how things turn out. Team Amberly all the way!

The Setting

I don’t live in the South. I don’t live in NYC or something else that’s considered to be sophisticated and metropolitan or whatever, but I definitely don’t live in the South. I don’t like very many fried foods and Southern accents can get on my nerves. I’ve never been a country music fan and I don’t really care for the concept of Southern charm, mostly because I don’t know what that is. Basically, I dislike many of the stereotypes of the South, and don’t take the time to get to know what else the South can offer besides clichés. So, it was great seeing a Southern location that did feel Southern and small-town-esque, but never felt overwhelming. It didn’t make me want to move down to Georgia or anything, but I really did like it.

The Adult Situation

Claire’s parents really aren’t there for her at the beginning of the book, but that was part of the story. It was heart-breaking to see some of the early flashbacks when everything in her life was pretty much perfect, and then comparing it to a distant parent who works all the time and one who’s stuck in a haze of depression. Things get better as the family slowly starts to heal, but they definitely aren’t involved parents at the beginning because it wouldn’t be genuine to their story line.

The Romance

There are many romances in this book, mostly in the past, but not all. Based on the summary, I expected Claire’s romance with Luke to be a big focus, but it wasn’t nearly as much. I also expected him to be this perfect guy, like he starts off as, but he’s a real person with real (pretty big) flaws, so it was great seeing Claire grow and understand him better, even if she didn’t like what she saw. There was a best friend who seemed like he could be more, which meant I was pretty much shipping it from the beginning because I love friends-then-more relationships, but the ending might surprise you a bit on that front, in the best way possible for the story and Claire’s growth.

The Ending

The end of the book comes when Claire is in her dorm room at her new college, ready to continue her life even if the story doesn’t. Her future is so open, in ways you might not even expect. Part of me wants more from her story because I just want to know what happens, but another part is perfectly satisfied with an ending that so open and realistic.

In Conclusion…

This book was pretty close to perfect and definitely a new favorite – the only reason I’m not giving it 5 stars is because Claire does have a few comments about the girls around her that aren’t the nicest, but that also seems like it was part of her personality and something she would learn was wrong and later grow out of. I’m looking forward to whatever else Rachael Allen writes in the future – especially if it’s a companion involving my favorite, Amberly, although I kind of doubt that. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

5stars

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