I wanted to read this one because I wanted to know what the tragedy with her family as well as find the dirt on the 17 kisses as well as her current crush.
I immediately felt for Claire. I was always the girl that had a hard time with boys, especially at first. She had a great narrative voice and it was so easy to read from her perspective and laugh with her, worry about her mom with her, and reminisce about those kisses and how they went wrong.
It was such a shame that the new guy to school, Luke, in the present, was in the middle with her and Megan, Claire's best friend who is gorgeous and who all the guys seem to fall for, even ones that Claire has liked and kissed. But Megan liked Luke too and it became a strain on their relationship because neither of them really wanted to step down. It is hard seeing a friendship tested like that, but an important dynamic to explore since hot sweet guys can make us as women's heads a little fuzzy, us hormonal and make some questionable decisions.
Some interesting twists came up with Luke besides the fact that he was leading on two girls. Some of it I saw coming others I really didn't. But while he added drama to the story, I think that the main message is about so much more than kissing. I liked the emphasis on friendship and showing the many ways they can be damaged, repaired, stretched, formed and all other sorts of things. There was also a big focus on Claire's family. They weren't the most functional because of their tragedy, but who could blame them. I was so glad to see them all start to grow and let life run its course without letting it drag them down out of it. The parents were dynamic characters in the story too, and I liked that none of the issues were gift wrapped, it showed that it took time, patience and lots of hard work to get through tragedy.
Parts of the story is told in flashback and it gives a unique look not only in Claire's string of kisses and failed relationships with guys, but also a more emotional view of the past tragedy within the family so that I felt it and was more emotionally invested rather than it just being mentioned. At first it was a little hard to keep all of the characters (guys especially) straight from one another, but they all played a role on how Claire sees guys, her and Megan's friendship.
Seeing them when they were first best friends makes the tension between them over Luke harder to read. I can see both sides of it, but it just seems like the closeness they have, everything they have done to be there for each other should take precedence. I know it was a hard road, but I did appreciate how in the end it worked for them despite their issues, even if maybe not quite as easy as could have been if they'd made different choices.
One thing that I really wanted as I read this first part of the book was to see more growth in Claire in that she didn't let the popular crowd and peer pressure make her own decision for you. I get that some of these kisses were in elementary school and really don't count, or from spin the bottle, which I also wouldn't say adds to reputation... However, there were some where she ended up there because she didn't want to lose approval. Now, I understand that is a driving factor, but I just wanted her to realize her own value and use her own mind.
17 First Kisses was wonderfully paced, there was just enough drama, boys, friendship and family that it had my constant attention, seeing how it grew, shaped and changed Claire. The ending was nice, and while it leaves us with the start of a new chapter for Claire, I do like the way it tied up the main plots, but also gave room for lots of choices for the future for Claire because of the way some of her dreams and hopes worked themselves out. Maybe even a sequel... I definitely would not complain.
Bottom Line: Quick and enjoyable bookshow more
by Brandi Kosiner (Brandi Breathes Books)