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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Confessions of a Serial Kisser* by Wendelin Van Draanen- young adult book review
Also by Wendelin Van Draanen:

Sammy Keyes and the Showdown in Sin City

Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack

The Running Dream



Shredderman 1: Secret Identity

Shredderman 2: Attack of the Tagger
Confessions of a Serial Kisser
by Wendelin Van Draanen
Grades 7+ 304 pages Knopf May 2008 Hardcover    

While the title, Confessions of a Serial Kisser, might suggest an altogether goofy, light and fluffy read, this little novel has unexpected depth and life lessons to offer - in and among the misadventures in kissing land, that is. Wendelin Van Draanen has written a story about a somewhat confused almost-17-year-old who tries her hand at living a romantic fantasy.

Evangeline’s parents separated six months ago, making her one of the many, many teens to come from a broken home life. She has no idea at all just how deeply she’s been affected by their break-up. She is a junior in high school. She is a hardworking student, with an A average. She lives a pretty simple life, seemingly content with just plowing through her studies and sharing the high school experience with her best friend, Adrienne.

All of that changes one fateful afternoon, while cleaning up the condo shared with her mother to the beat of Aerosmith’s greatest hits. Gathering dirty clothes from the chairs, the floor, and even under the beds, Evangeline’s hand comes in contact with something that changes the course of her life: the tattered pages of a book with a strappingly handsome man on the cover bending over a woman with flying lustrous locks and a corset, boasting the name: A Crimson Kiss.

Her first reaction is to scoff, laugh and continue on with her laundry. But… it calls to her. She makes the fatal mistake of sinking into the story, reading about (and liking!) Delilah and her hero, Grayson, he of the chiseled manly chest and intense eyes; he of the honeyed words and crimson kisses that take Delilah to her knees, making her eyes unfocused and her heart thump uncontrollably.

This “trashy romance book” coupled with a self-help book that encourages living the fantasy life is enough to spin Evangeline off into actions she never would have seen herself taking. A beauty makeover gives her the courage to put her plan into action, to find a crimson kiss of her very own. A series of ill-advised non-crimson kisses begin to frustrate our young heroine, sending her even deeper into this strange storybook land. Evangeline begins to make mistakes that are going to be very hard to come back from - like kissing the boy her best friend has a crush on.

The short - literally often all of two pages - chapters are more than a little annoying. It’s hard to sink into Evangeline’s life with only a page or two before a subject change. It makes for choppy reading and doesn’t invite a reader - young or young at heart - to sit down and snuggle in with a blanket for an afternoon. The choppy chapters make it more of a read-a-page-here-and-there sort of book instead. The corny chapter titles might bring in non-readers, but it is infinitely frustrating for the young girls who are already dedicated readers. In addition, some of the misguided events read as more than a little unrealistic, even for an emotional and confused teenager.

Given the title, one might expect this book to run along similar lines as the book Evangeline found that launched her into a tangled kissing mess. Surprisingly, while it is the stepping-off point, Confessions of a Serial Kisser is tame and downright wholesome. The musical influences of classic rock favorites and bluesy tunes make a nice soundtrack behind the words.

Sharing the book with my daughter opened dozens of conversations: exploring motives, feelings, and yes, even kissing. It opened our eyes a little to the mistakes people make when emotions run wild and unchecked, and it made for more than a few sheepish giggles while talking about just what makes a “crimson kiss.” These are good things for girls to ponder, and topics for a mama to offer gentle guidance on.

Confessions of a Serial Kisser is a fun book with a few (not too preachy) lessons tossed in for balance. It’s the sort of novel that is passed around between friends, discussed and gnawed on. It won’t change your life, but it will definitely make you smile and perhaps avoid a few kissing pitfalls. It might even give you new musical directions to explore!
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Carolynn Evans/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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