the kiss // book review

Title/Author: The Kiss by Lucy Courtenay
Filed Under: YA, Contemporary, Realistic, Romance
Publisher/Published: Hachette Children’s Group, July 2nd 2015
Format/Pages: ARC, 336 pages
Rating: ★★★★ 4 stars
Where To Find: GoodreadsThe Book Depository

Synopsis: ‘Aphrodite kissed a mortal once by the light of this moon, many thousands of years ago. It drove him crazy. The next person that he kissed – boom. The craziness travelled like this from person to person. It travelled through time. Everywhere – boom! Tu comprends?’ ‘Where did it end up?’ I whisper. His lips are on my cheek now. ‘It ended with me. And now I am going to pass it to you. You will like that, mermaid?’ Imagine the perfect kiss. A legendary kiss that makes people crazy with love. Imagine a summer’s night, on a moonlit beach in the South of France, as French boy Laurent kisses 16-year-old Delilah after the best chat-up line she’s ever heard. BOOM! Delilah is pretty sure the Kiss is fiction, despite her head-spinning holiday fling. But with all the sudden crushes, break-ups and melt-downs happening back at home, the Kiss starts looking a little too real for comfort. If only Delilah could keep track of where it’s gone… Who knew one kiss could cause this much trouble? (pulled from Goodreads)

* I received an ARC copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

[Mild Spoilers Below]

As far as classic rom-com literature goes, The Kiss is top of that list. Set in a thriving English town, Delilah is picking up the pieces of her past relationship when she learns about Aphrodite’s Kiss and the legend behind it. One kiss, originating from the lips of the ancient Greek goddess herself, passed on from person to person, causing adoration and infatuation wherever it goes. At first this seems like a silly wooing technique by pretty French boy Laurent, who kisses Delilah, but she and best friend Tabby soon begin to put much more stock behind the legend, forming a plan to help win Tabby’s ex-boyfriend Sam back after she accidentally-sort-of-kissed another guy. Whilst Delilah does initially have her reservations, shared kisses under a full Aphrodite moon with hot bartender Jem soon make her realise that maybe there is some truth behind the tale.

“Guess I was the only one that felt it.” “Felt what?” “Like the moon was inside me.” – p.75

Quite surprisingly, because I originally thought this story might lack character depth, all of the relationships portrayed are incredibly realistic and don’t make me cringe in any shape or form. In particular, the love triangle between Tabby/Sam/Maria is pulled off exceptionally well. What I find quite interesting about it is that as the book is told from Delilah’s POV we get a significantly more objective view of the relationship. Plus, Tabby isn’t continuously whiny even though Sam and the Kiss do take up a lot of her thoughts, which is beyond refreshing. Similarly, unrequited love is presented in the form of Oz and I think that is done rather well too because Oz doesn’t start acting rude when he realises Tabby is never going to want to date him, he just carries on being her friend—as it should be, because we all know the ‘friendzone’ is a stupid and misogynistic social construct.

Then of course there’s Delilah and Jem, the leading characters. Their relationship is full of mind-boggling twists and turns that isn’t ever made any easier by the fact Delilah not only works with Jem but for his mum. Awks. Jem comes with all of his own baggage but that’s not what makes him interesting. I like that he’s not enigmatic and is perfectly upfront about what he thinks and how he feels—truth is a major thing for Jem and it paints him in a wonderful light. Don’t get me wrong though: he’s definitely not all sunshine and daisies. In fact, quite the opposite. I guess you could call him your new problematic fave.

Speaking of things not been all cliché and full of sparkling glitter, what may well be painted as a cheesy rom-com has an unexpected layer of depth as it twists into a darker place than I ever imagined from a bubblegum pink book cover. I won’t go into too much detail because I like the moment of surprise when I read it but, my one piece of advice: do not underestimate Delilah’s negativeness about Dave. He’s more than a bit of a twat.

Moving on to some of the things I didn’t like about The Kiss (I do rate it 4 out of 5 stars after all), I think that the introductory chapters could do with a little bit more done to clear up the setting of the story since I spent a good amount of time questioning whether it is in America or Britain (hint: this is UKYA). Similarly, I think Delilah could have been toned down just a teensy bit because I often kept forgetting that she was only 16 and not 18/19. Her behaviour influences this a lot but also (I’m not sure if this makes sense) the way she talks. Additionally, Fatima is a bit of a… redundant character. If she was removed from the story and her lines replaced by an alternative character this would’ve worked so much better. She actually does very little to advance the story anywhere and I cannot fathom why she was ever included.

Overall though The Kiss is a quintessential representation of British teenage life, exaggerated only a little for comedic and dramatic effect. It encompasses my favourite kinds of romance plots with ambiguous morals, questionable characters, and great one-liners. For these reasons, I’ve awarded it 4 stars. Also, did I mention there’s a play in this?! I think it could have been executed and engaged with the rest of the plot more but there is a literal musical version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in this with a new contemporary twist. It’s great. Read it.

Favourite Quote: “Your eyes are different colours. One’s like chocolate. The other’s more like poo.” – Jem p.33
Favourite Parts: Body art. Zombies. ‘He looks like an onion’. Aphrodite’s Kiss. Teatowel head.
Least Favourite Parts:
Dean’s proposition. Fatima’s visit.
Would Recommend To: UKYA fans or just British readers. People who like the mix between romance and personal angst. Students feeling the struggles of trying to stay economically afloat.

– JESS, XO

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