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Kiss 'N Tell Blog Tour: Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler Book Review – “I think of Alex’s mom. The look on her face when she pleads with me to go back to living. To live larger. For both of us.”

Title: Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler
Author Info: Bio | Blog | Twitter
Publication: Oct 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks Fire
A loud thunk from the viewing area startles me as I flip-flop from the locker room to the pool deck...
Story Arc: Standalone
Paperback: 312 pages
Age Group: Teen, YA
Genre: Contemp. Romance
Excerpt(s): pg 280
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She Never Thought A Kiss Could Kill. . .

Samantha is new at school and just recently joined the swim team. She’s been flirting with one of her teammates, Zee, who invites her to a party and just as quickly dumps her for another girl. Hurt, but pretending not to care, she turns to his best friend, Alex, and gives him a kiss. And he dies—right in her arms. Alex was allergic to peanuts, and Samantha had eaten a peanut butter sandwich right before the party. She didn’t know.

Overnight, Samantha turns into the school pariah and a media sensation explodes. Consumed with guilt, abandoned by her friends, and in jeopardy of losing her swimming scholarship, she will have to find the inner-strength to forgive herself for the tragedy.
Review: Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler is kind of one of those perfect contemporary romances of the moment. My moment. I’ve been feeling a little bit downtrodden with all the death and dismal coming from some of my recent reads, and while, yes, this has death, the emotion called to me as well as the sweetness of the romance. But, really, Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler isn’t even about that; it’s a coming-of-age novel about a character whose transition is spurred and sparked by the tragedy and immense grief of the situation she finds herself in. An extra push to get her to understand who she is, and ask questions she’s been needing answers to but has dutifully repressed. An emotional story without being too cakey with it featuring a very relatable, sympathetic main character, Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler is a quick and delightful (even given the Kiss Of Death) read that doesn’t feel too exhaustive.

It’s to be expected that you’re going to have a lot of crying and some family time when you read a book like Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler. Poor Samantha would never have seen her situation coming and is extremely burned by it. She has very few to turn to and self-blame is an understandably steady companion. I have to give Gurtler props for not making this aspect of Samantha seem whiny, mopey, or truly self-indulgent. The complexity of what Samantha did, the consequences and toll on everybody connected is what makes this whole thing feel hugely and unfortunately real. And part of what made it read that way is the characters. They are a nicely diverse bunch and I felt I got to know a little bit from each one, and I felt for them, as people going through something so overwhelming. Their complete unpreparedness for such a random tragedy is vividly heartbreaking.

Samantha makes a lot of mistakes on her way to gained wisdom. There’re butthole boys, a lack of swim training as penance, heartless skanks, family ghosts, and a sweet crush on a boy who’s reeling from the sudden death of his best friend. Between Zee and Samantha, there’re so many missteps. And, in a way, so much of that plays into the book: the unwillingness to expose or determine feelings, to say the unsaid, and those flashes of immaturity that can’t be helped which further scuff things up. All the wrong turns they make, I found myself surprised by how much I wanted them to take a right one. Maybe I should’ve been even a little put off by the laser focus on Zee being the only one to make Sam feel the tingles, but I actually found it to be… charming and kind of adorable, especially when it’s obvious Zee is stuck in that same sinking boat.

Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler could have been a depressing book, full of woe and all the awful things, but the fact is Janet Gurtler really knows how to shine some light on the good as well to make all the bad stuff simultaneously bearable and necessary. I’m completely impressed by my absorption in that Gurtler was the obvious cause, and… who wouldn’t want more after that?

Most Likely to Be Enjoyed By: I’ve never read Janet Gurtler’s other books, so I can’t help you out there. And, frankly, I don’t read many books quite like this one. In fact, this premise is wholly new to me. Odd, I know, because being a reader must mean I’ve read every kind of book ever, but that is so not the case. I will say that if you enjoy contemporary romances that are all about the emotion and character evolution instead of lightness and fluffiness, then you might want to head Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler’s way.

Content Warning: There are some kissing and implicit sex scenes, which is probably a big no no for a MG reception. There’s also death and a lot of family grief, and mild profanity, I believe. Don’t quote me on that. I’d definitely recommend this book to teen readers and above.

Blog Rating: Sud-Kissed
Those delightful moments during your bubble bath, with a book companion in one hand and a glass of chocolate milk in the other, are the best way to describe luxurious feelings that sud-kissed books create. These books can sometimes be even more rereadable than special shelf books...


Goodreads Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quotes/Scenes:

Zee kicks his foot at the ground. “I’m still so messed up.” He runs his hands over his hair and tugs on the ends. “About Alex… I miss him.”
“I know.”
He glances out at the boys, but they disappear behind a half-pipe.
“I always thought it was supposed to be us, Sam. Me and you. I thought we were the ones who were supposed to be together.” He turns to me then and I open my mouth, struggling to think of something to say.
My cheeks flare, and some ice slides off my heart and melts into my belly. “Really?”
“Really.”
“Me too,” I admit.
With a graceful swoop, he slips a hand onto my back and then pulls me toward him by my waist. Our faces are less than an inch apart. Zee smells like chlorine and promises. My mind spins, but all I can think of is how delicious he is. His hair curls up on the ends from the cold. Our hip bones crush together.
“But it got ruined,” I say softly.
“So I totally messed it up?” he whispers.
A horn blares, but neither of us looks toward the car. “What about me? I messed up worse.”

OTHER REVIEWS:
  1. YA Bliss
  2. The Book Labyrinth
  3. The Book Life

GOODREADS RECOMMENDS:
  1. Send Me a Sign
  2. Kiss Me, Kill Me
  3. Live Through This
  4. Out of Reach

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Got something specific in mind? Dare I believe I might NOT have covered something you wish to know? If so, let me know down in the comments section. Does severe allergies make you nervous around people you think about embracing?

21 comments:

Rebecca said...

I've never read anything by Janet before but Who I Kissed really has me intrigued. It sounds unique and I do enjoy contemporary romances that are all about the emotion and character growth. Plus, I love the fact that even though it deals with heavy topics like death, the author knows how to shine some light on the good and make the bad stuff bearable. Nice little teasers and excerpts, it makes me want to get my hands on a copy. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, especially since it's not what you normally would read. Sometimes it good to branch out, you never, you might stumble across something great ^__^

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