Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw is the last of the books I brought home from TCAF, in this case thanks to Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading. Johanna and I agree on almost nothing, but I love conversing with her is terrific and I almost always learn something I did not know when I do. ^_^
I know I talk about TCAF a lot, but one of the things about that I particularly like about it is the proximity to so many reviewers who recommend excellent books to me that I might not otherwise know about. And this year, as the Ladies in a Hotel Room occupied the corner table at the lobby bar, we had a great number of amazingly talented, passionate and interesting people join us. So I actually met Colleen and Ellen before having had a chance to read this book.
Kiss Number 8 follows Mads, a high school girl from a family in a community that is strongly, even strictly, Christian. Church and age-appropriate dances and the like fill her life. Her friend’s brother is into her though she’s not into him, although she tries to be, for a while. And in the meantime, she’s dealing with a pile of normalish growing up things, and a family secret that she’s just kinda pissed about. She’ not pissed that they have a family secret, or, when she learns what it is, but she is seriously pissed at her Dad, who is her best friend, being a dick about it.
Speaking of best friends, Mads has some friend issues of her own. Her one best friend is in love with her, which was kinda obvious to me, but not to Mads and Mads is in love with a different friend, which is obvious to everyone, except Mads. Mads is trying to be the good (straight) girl her community and family want her to be. So when she has kiss number 8, drama ensues, but not for the reason you might expect.The story isn’t a “coming out” narrative, although that does happen. When Mads and we finally learn her family secret, it’s not at all what we -or she – think it is.
Everything about Mads’ life as it is presented, is alien to me. But the mass amounts of drama around friendship and dating…that was all as I remember it. So it was both entirely realistic and also oddly foreign, the way going over to dinner at a friend’s house was when you were 12 and finding that all the things you had on the table and thought were normal are nowhere to be seen on your friend’s table and if you ask for Worcestershire sauce they just stared uncomrehendingly…it was like that.
Although the art isn’t photorealistic, it conveys a very realistic feel to the story, with a single-camera perspective. It’s an easy read, even though it can be emotionally heavy. The story, the characters, the art all combine to tell a poignant tale of learning about life, about one’s self and the people around one.
Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 6 I only really liked Laura
Service – Not really
LGBTQ – 9
Overall – 8
Like Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, this is a solid YA book that would make a great pride gift for your family member who needs help understanding themselves or others, or the local library. ^_^