17 First Kisses – Rachael Allen

Synopsis

No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.

Until Claire meets Luke.

But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.

With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.

In her moving debut, Rachael Allen brilliantly captures the complexities of friendship, the struggles of self-discovery, and the difficulties of trying to find love in high school. Fans of Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, and Stephanie Perkins will fall head over heels for this addictive, heartfelt, and often hilarious modern love story.

Review

This book was so bittersweet because it was actually REALISTIC (for the most part). Well, some of the characters were caricatures, but they were meant to be that way. Like, Claire simply did not know them well enough to see their depth (understandably, they didn’t even have names).

But all the important characters and friendships were spot-on accurate. They were detailed and each person had many sides to them. Let’s talk Megan—you love to hate her, and you think she can be so unfair, but you also love her unconditionally. It may seem like Claire and Megan have a toxic friendship, but it’s real. They like the same boys. They get jealous and insecure. There’s a LOT of drama and baggage between them. But they are there for each other when and where it matters. They believe in each other. This book is so accurate because there are seemingly “unfair” rules to the girl code, and Claire always seems to get the short end of the stick. But she sucks it up and deals with it, because it’s simply not worth the hassle to break down and start over with a whole new set of friends at the tail-end of high school.

Then there’s Amberly. I’m glad we got to see the fun innocence of their friendship all throughout the early years. I’m glad we saw Amberly take Claire’s side, and then not take it. Because yeah, Claire never fully let her “into” her life and family. They didn’t put the same amount of effort into their friendship. I’m also glad we got a look into Amberly’s home life versus her social life. Not all the popular girls and haughty, rich, and spoiled.

As for Britney, I’m sure she’d be just like Amanda if she wasn’t “chosen” in sixth grade. I’m so over her.

Now going to Luke… and the telltale question, is he worth it? This was a fleeting high school romance. Claire never saw him as her future life partner. And he always, always had “the grass is always greener” syndrome. You could tell he had serious baggage and issues. But maybe if Megan and Claire didn’t play twisted games with his mind, practically throwing themselves on him, he wouldn’t have acted the way he did. He definitely got painted as a villain by the end, but I think that’s giving him a disservice. Because he was always into Claire first. And his home life was so, so scary. He drank himself into a stupor, and that led to bad decisions. It probably doesn’t help that it was compounded by the girls’ behaviour. When they made up their mind and kicked him to the curb, they never gave him the… “closure” (hehe) to become a better person. I still think he wanted the best of everything, but maybe he’d find that one day. I hope the same of Tanner.

Okay, but let’s talk about SAM. SAM IS SPLENDID. SAM IS SWEET. SAM IS SUPER. I love Sam. It’s so bittersweet because I am 100% rooting them on. I wanted to see them graduate from college, gosh darn it! Why did the book have to end THERE? It was a really disappointing ending. One that made me want to possibly knock this down a rating. Except everything about it was realistic. College is a big, vast change. There are so many other people out there in the world. The timing was all wrong for the two of them, all the time. I guess they could be “the ones that got away.” And although all the other stories make it out that the two best friends always live happily ever after if they take their relationship to the next level, that’s most often not the case. Claire and Sam might grow apart and change throughout college. Perhaps it really is better to maintain the friendship. Still, the little romantic always wants that kind of relationship to follow through! Argh!

The whole family dynamic was interesting. I loved how we got the backstory in bits and pieces, while knowing the “end result” in the present. It seemed a little farfetched, but at the same time, I guess one thing really can wind up saving you.

Apart from that, I could DEFINITELY see Rachael Allen’s influences throughout the book. So much Southern charm and Georgia knowledge (bulldawgs) was evident. And I loved how she added in that little bit of biotech knowledge when Claire talked about Georgia Tech. I have a feeling some of Claire’s characteristics drew from her personal experiences, which was cool because Claire was so well-developed (soccer-playing tomboy? Girly girl? Biotech nerd? All of the above?)!

Also, this book made me cry. I really enjoyed it!

Related Reading

  • The Boyfriend List – E. Lockhart (this one is really, really relevant)
  • Better Off Friends – Elizabeth Eulberg
  • That Boy – Jillian Dodd
  • Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson (cattiness and the nature of friendship)
  • Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins

Rating: 5/5

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