Other girls yearn for iPods or spa visits; Evangeline Logan just wants a kiss. Fueled by romance novels and self-help books, this winsome teen longs to pucker up, to experience a smooch so spectacular that it will transform her into a woman. But, as Confessions of a Serial Kisser reveals, this innocent quest for a peck leads to unexpected complications and more than Evangeline's share of bad kisses.
Evangeline and her musician dad used to be close-but that was before he had an affair, and before she and her mom moved out. Cleaning, Evangeline finds her mother's stash of romance novels and begins dreaming of a "crimson kiss." Between the lure of the crimson kiss and a self-help book urging readers to live their fantasies, Evangeline, formerly a straight-A high school junior, starts kissing crushes and even strangers. She also starts to get a reputation. Van Draanen's (Flipped) plotting is straightforward, but the pacing is near perfect: readers realize, just when Evangeline does, that it is not a kiss she is after but actually "more the passion of it... to really, really care." The author also draws a solid parallel between Evangeline's inability to forgive her father and her best friend's unwillingness to forgive Evangeline after she kisses her friend's secret crush. Readers may not get all of Evangeline's references to old rock 'n' roll bands, but they will understand how the music connects her with her dad, and why she eventually wants to make her own sound. In the end, the playful title and premise are matched by tender and convincing storytelling. Ages 12-up. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
Evangeline Logan is confused. The 16-year-old's parents recently separated, and she and her mother had to move to a downscale apartment while her father remained in their more luxurious home to continue an affair with the mother of one of her schoolmates. Since the schoolmate was also on the volleyball team, Evangeline had to drop out because the thought of her father and the other woman coming to cheer them both at the games is just too much. In the meantime, searching for happiness, she becomes enmeshed in the secret stash of romance novels her mother keeps under the bed and discovers what one novelist luridly describes as "a crimson kiss." She also falls under the sway of a self-help book that proclaims she must "live her fantasy." The result is a willy-nilly search for the perfect pair of lips to provide her with the crimson kiss experience. Most of what she experiences are too wet, too blah, too devouring, but before long she has a reputation for hit-and-run kissing. Then she kisses her best friend's boyfriend, and all of her relationships seem to be in jeopardy. Plus, she must deal with her father and mother getting back together, although she refuses to even speak to him on the phone. It's hard to imagine serial kissing providing a girl with much of a reputation on a modern high school campus, but this is a comedy with themes of forgiveness and the best way to heal. Silly but also strangely thought provoking. Reviewer: Myrna Marler
School Library Journal
Gr 8-11- When 16-year-old Evangeline discovers her mother's secret stash of romance novels, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to one title: The Crimson Kiss . Although she dismisses the other books as trash, Evangeline is swept away by this story and dreams of finding a kiss as passionate as the one described in the novel. Inspired by a second book of her mother's-this one a self-help tome-the teen decides to take action: she will make her fantasy a reality. When her guerrilla kissing missions leave her with a dubious reputation and land her on the wrong side of her best friend, she starts to reevaluate her search. With a quick pace enforced by short, episodic chapters that conclude with mild hyperbole or romantic suspense, Van Draanen's novel is compulsively readable. While Evangeline's determination to receive the perfect kiss seems a little over-the-top, her growing realization that her behavior is a reaction to her parents' recent separation and their attempt at reconciliation tempers this aspect of the tale. The novel doesn't end on a typical romance-novel note; instead, Evangeline finds a nonromantic outlet for her passion and begins to rethink her goals.-Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston
Is it possible to go on a kissing spree and emerge with your heart-and reputation-intact? Van Draanen's (Flipped, 2001, etc.) latest explores a number of issues revolving around sexuality, but fails to deliver fully. Evangeline is still reeling from her father's infidelity and the subsequent divorce. She's spent months focused on school, but when she finds her mom's romance-novel stash she decides to live it up and search out a perfect "crimson kiss." Hijinks ensue, all narrated in an appealing first-person voice, but it seems girls can't be sexual precipitators even in this enlightened age, and soon Evangeline's name appears in the Boys' Room. Plus, she's lost her best friend after unknowingly kissing her crush. On top of everything, Evangeline's mother seems to be reconciling with her cheating father, leaving Evangeline, and her anger, out in the cold. Ultimately, Evangeline finds love-with a guitar. A complex but not entirely satisfying examination of female empowerment and growing up, it's a good introduction for younger teens just starting to grapple with these weighty issues. (Fiction. 12-16)
From the Publisher
Praise for Confessions of a Serial Kisser:
"Not the usual chick-lit fare. This great novel will no doubt expose Van Draanen to a while new legion of fans." VOYA
"The pacing is near-perfect: readers realize, just when Evangeline does, that it is not a kiss she is [really] after. In the end, the playful title and premise are matched by tender and convincing storytelling." Publishers Weekly
"With a quick pace [and] romantic suspense, Van Draanen's novel is compulsively readable."School Library Journal
"Evangeline's strong, entertaining voice will pull plenty of readers, who will root for their heroine as she begins to piece together a grown-up life." Booklist
Read an Excerpt
My name is Evangeline Bianca Logan, and I am a serial kisser.
I haven’t always been a serial kisser. There was a time not that long ago when I had next to no kissing experience. It’s interesting how things can change so fast—how you can go from being sixteen with very few lip-locking credentials to being barely seventeen and a certified serial kisser.
It all started one day with dirty laundry.
At least that’s what I trace it back to.
My mother had said, “Evangeline, please. I could really use some help around the house.” She’d looked so tired, and what with homework and the amount of time I’d been wasting at Groove Records looking through old LPs and CDs, I had been slacking. Especially compared to the hours she’d been working.
So after school the next day I kicked into gear. I had the condo to myself because Mom was working her usual eleven a.m. to eight p.m. shift, and since my taste in music is old blues and classic rock (probably thanks to being bombarded with it since my early days in the womb), I selected an Aerosmith greatest hits CD and cranked it up.
I made the kitchen spotless during “Mama Kin,” “Dream On,” “Same Old Song and Dance,” and “Seasons of Wither,” sang along with “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” while I cleaned the bathroom, then tidied the bedrooms through “Last Child” and “Back in the Saddle.”
It was during the pulsing beat of “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” that I began my fateful search for wayward laundry.
Laundry at the Logan girls’ residence isn’t found in hampers. It’s found on the floor, draped over chairs, putrefying in boxes and baskets . . . it’s anywhere my mom and I want to dump it. And in my rocked-out state I was checking for laundry in places I’d never looked before. Like on her closet floor, behind and between the big packing boxes that still serve as my mother’s dresser, and then under my mother’s bed. It was there that I discovered one dusty sock and a whole library of books.
Not just random books, either.
At first all I could do was gawk at the covers. I’d seen these kinds of books at the grocery store, but they were so obviously stupid and trashy that I wouldn’t be caught dead actually looking at one.
But now here I was with a whole library of trash in front of me and no worries that someone might spot me.
So as strains of “Angel” began playing, I looked!
I checked out all the covers, then started reading the blurbs on the backs. Aerosmith eventually quit playing, but I didn’t even notice. I was skimming pages, laughing at the ridiculous, flowery prose, my jaw literally dropping as I read (in great detail) how one book’s chisel-chested man and his luscious lady “joined souls in sublime adoration.”
I couldn’t believe what I’d found. Couldn’t believe my mother! While I was slogging through The Last of the Mohicans and The Red Badge of Courage for my insane literature teacher, Miss Ryder, my mother was reading books with bare-chested men and swooning women? Miss Ryder would have an English-lit fit over these books, and for once I’d agree with her!
But for each book I put down, I picked up another. And another. And another. Why, I don’t know. Was I looking for more soul joining? I don’t think so. Something to hold over my mother’s head? She didn’t need any more ravaging. I think it was more that I was still in shock over my mom being a closet romance freak.
But after ten pages out of the middle of a book called A Crimson Kiss, something weird happened: I actually kind of cared about Delilah, the woman that the story was about.
I read some more out of the middle, but since I didn’t get why Delilah was in her predicament, I went back to the beginning to figure it out.
I have no idea where the time went. I was carried away by the story, swept into the swirl of romance, racing hearts, anticipation, and love. They were things that were missing in my real life. After six months of watching my parents’ marriage implode, I found it hard to believe in true love.
But inside the pages of this book my parents’ problems vanished. It was just Delilah and her hero, Grayson—a man whose kiss would save her from her heartache and make her feel alive.
Love felt possible.
One kiss—the right kiss—could conquer all!
So I read on, devouring the book until I was jolted back to reality by my mother jangling through the front door.
In my panic, it didn’t even occur to me that she was really the one busted. I just shoved her books back under her bed and escaped to my room with A Crimson Kiss.
From the Hardcover edition.