Title: The Kissing Booth
Author: Beth Reekles
Series: The Kissing Booth #1
Genre: YA Romance
Summary (from Goodreads)
Meet Rochelle Evans: pretty, popular–and never been kissed. Meet Noah Flynn: badass, volatile–and a total player. And also Elle’s best friend’s older brother…
When Elle decides to run a kissing booth for the school’s Spring Carnival, she locks lips with Noah and her life is turned upside down. Her head says to keep away, but her heart wants to draw closer–this romance seems far from fairy tale and headed for heartbreak.
But will Elle get her happily ever after?
I don’t take a lot of joy in writing a bad review of a 17-year-old’s work. Writing anything aged 17 is an incredible accomplishment and nothing should detract from that. But unfortunately, Random House have published this and are asking people to pay money for it, and that means it has to stand up against other published work
And sadly, it doesn’t.
Although, it would be a very precocious 17-year-old who could write something that could.
The story isn’t terrible, and there are some nice ideas in it. When I read it, I didn’t realise the author was so young, but it actually makes sense of a lot of what was good – and bad – about it.
What I liked then: the story wasn’t too hung up about teenagers and their sex lives. The characters had sex, and they didn’t make a massive deal about it. It was just something accepted that happened. There was also promotion of the idea that a ‘happily ever after’ relationship might not last forever – that a love can be meaningful and important and temporary. I also liked that it featured a central relationship between a guy and a girl that was completely platonic.
And, unfortunately, that’s about it.
Early on in my reading, I compared the writing to that of an above average fan fiction, and so I’m not surprised that this was first published on WattPad. It had an episodic feel, and plenty of time was dedicated to conversations about nothing. There were lots of ‘let’s go shopping’ scenes – exactly the sort of filler you use to pad out a serialised story where you haven’t planned the ending, or revised the structure. Exactly the sort of scenes that should have been edited out somewhere in the publishing process.
I also clocked that Reekles was probably British. I started looking for Americanisms towards the end of the novel, and didn’t find any in the last several chapters. Everything about the prose, except the fact that the places were in California, was British, from spelling to the words used. Which was honestly just lazy on the part of the publishers, but then there was a lot of this novel that was such a mess – to make it of publishable quality would have required a lot of work and left it in a shape a long way from it’s original form. Which would have been a disservice to the WattPad fans in a way.
The characters were utterly unlikeable. They were poorly developed – Lee and Elle are generically ‘likeable’ and ‘funny’ but don’t really do anything. It’s unclear why they are such good friends – there’s no real sense of their history beyond ‘we grew up together.’ And Noah is downright horrible. There’s a passage where he has Elle pinned in a room and hits something and she is actually described to flinch. Everything shown suggests Elle should be afraid of Noah, but everything the author tells us is that he’s dreamy and wonderful and hot. Yuck.
To go with this is an irritating theme of overprotectiveness that I’m sure would have feminists across the world cringing. Noah constantly berates Elle about what she’s wearing – stating that she shouldn’t be wearing things that are so revealing because it will make the boys unable to resist taking advantage of her. Now, I’m not a hardline feminist on this – in fact, I think that what you wear can create a powerful impression, and you have to be able to own it, or dress down accordingly. Girls shouldn’t be vulnerable because they wear a short skirt, but they can be because a lot of people (not just men) are horrible, horrible people. BUT, I don’t like the idea that the entire relationship between these characters is centred around this misguided notion that telling a girl that she’s dressed slutty and she shouldn’t be because all the other boys will want to have sex with her, and that’s not acceptable, is just ARGH.
For starters, it’s not really anything at all to form a conversation, let alone a relationship. If Elle had any sort of character she would have told him to get lost. Almost every conversation Noah and Elle have is centred around what she’s wearing. Again, Noah comes across like a control freak at best, downright unpleasant at worst. And worst of all, whenever Elle does any of the things he disapproves of, he’s proven right. Elle gets drunk and nearly ends up skinny dipping, Elle wears a backless dress and some guy tries to kiss her. It’s like she’s completely incapable of making a decision that’s good for her, and she should listen to Noah or else BAD STUFF WILL HAPPEN. Which would be less terrible if Noah wasn’t Bad Stuff too.
The idea of the bad boy, redeemable through love, will continue to be compelling to teenagers and many others. Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, and a multitude of spin offs all sell the same message – that love can save everyone.
And yes, I like that idea too, but there has to be something worth saving. And Noah is not it…
If Reekles is producing this aged 17, I’m sure she’ll be able to write some cracking stuff with a bit of experience and a good editor behind her. I wouldn’t write her off as an author, but this one should have just stayed on WattPad.