From the Publisher
“Captures first love’s exquisite, earth-shattering joy and the struggle and thrill that come with claiming one’s own life.”—Starred, Booklist
“Her understated, tightly focused language evokes vivid scenes and heady emotions...each line of dialogue, each interaction illuminating struggles that readers face as well.” — Starred, Publisher's Weekly
“Teens who have suffered their own stings will appreciate Koja's honest and hopeful rendering.” —Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“...a short but rich psychological exploration of the intense complexities of frienship and love in a teen world.” —School Library Journal
“This is a beautiful novel about relationships.” —Publishers Weekly, ShelfTalker
“Readers will find it hard to pry themselves away from this brilliantly written story...A must read for young romantics.” —IRA
Koja (Buddha Boy) incorporates facts and folklore about bees as a metaphor in this spare and haunting novel. As the last few weeks of senior year unwind, Dana completes her bee research for a biology project, and draws comparisons for readers: "The one fact everyone knows about bees- there is only one queen. Which in our little three-person hive was Avra." Most people think Avra and Dana are best friends, but Dana knows otherwise; Avra stays focused on herself and demands Dana's full attention, too. "She was basically what I did," Dana admits to herself. But who is really the "queen bee"? When Dana falls for Emil but Avra cements a relationship with him, the relationship grows increasingly complicated-and, once Emil kisses Dana, it can no longer survive. Koja's timing is perfect as she builds the sexual tension between Dana and Emil. Her understated, tightly focused language evokes vivid scenes and heady emotions. Almost without the audience's awareness, the author sketches the characters' family histories-Dana's widowed mother, Avra's perfect older sister and overinvolved mom and even-tempered father-each line of dialogue, each interaction illuminating struggles that readers face as well. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Sarah de Verges
As the end of their senior year approaches, Dana, her best friend Avra, and Avra's boyfriend Emil are faced with what will happen in May. But, before school ends there is a lot to think about, like prom and Dana's big biology project on bees. As Dana works on her project, she becomes mesmerized by the intricate behaviors of these insects, and she realizes her life is more closely related to theirs than she would have ever thought. She also realizes she may no longer be able to ignore her feelings for Emil and what they will do to her friendship. This novel about love, friendship, and truth is told through intricately woven metaphors and honest language. The heroine Koja has given us is truly special, and her journey into her adult life is beautifully and gracefully taken. Readers will float through the story, never wanting it to end. Reviewer: Sarah de Verges
VOYA - Julie Scordato
One would think that Dana is the third wheel to Emil and Avra's coupledom. Dana cannot explain how it works, how all three of them do just about everything together, and how she manages to keep her own love for Emil to herself. As Dana continues researching her biology project on bees and as prom looms, tensions rise among the three high school seniors, and as they say, something has to give. Dana needs to be honest about her friendship with Avra and truthful with herself. Avra possesses all the anger and restlessness of a friend used to being center stage. As Avra rails against her absent "perfect" older sister and plans to run away after graduation, Dana quietly goes on with life, hovering around her love for Emil and giving readers a glimpse into her solid relationship with her mother. Emil is the less fleshed out of the three corners of this triangle. Dana describes the color of his hair as champagne, and his personality comes across as just as colorless. But the interplay of Dana and her own feelings drive the story, and her burgeoning relationship with Emil has an understated passion that will satisfy the diehard romantic readers.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up
Emil, Dana, and Avra are best friends. Dana loves Emil, but he is dating Avra, the Queen Bee, and loyal Dana would never betray her. It's the end of senior year and the two girls have a lot to look forward to: for Dana, it's a college scholarship, for Avra it's just driving out of their small town with Emil riding shotgun. What he wants is anybody's guess. Then, in a rare moment alone, he reveals to Dana that he loves her. She is horrified and ecstatic and is finally forced to deal with a whirlwind of feelings that had been shoved under the surface. Koja takes the typical teen love triangle and spins it into a layered, intricate, emotional read. This story is thick like honey, humming with beautiful imagery and dialogue. The characters are multifaceted and interesting. Written from Dana's point of view, this book is her emotional journey. Her inner monologues are eloquent, honest, and admirable. She begins each chapter with excerpts from her Bio II independent study on bees, an addition that could border on trite symbolism, but in Koja's hands, they are utterly fascinating. It's through her studies on the group dynamics of bees that Dana realizes that she is the Queen Bee, not Avra. Kissing the Bee is a short but rich psychological exploration of the intense complexities of friendship and love in a teen world. A definite choice for reluctant readers looking for something with a more creative, "emo" slant.
Emily Anne ValenteCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A slow, choppy start leads to a predictable conclusion in this teen-angst-drenched quasi-romance. Dana Parsons, aspiring science writer and bee aficionado, has her own little hive with impetuous "queen bee" best friend, Avra, and Avra's boyfriend, Emil. The trio, getting ready for their commencement and prom, face challenges of their uncertain future and their wavering feelings for each other. When romantic emotions between Dana and Emil intensify the threesome must come to terms with their evolutions. The countless apiary allusions in the writing wear out quickly. Dana, Emil and Avra are flat characters, each is quickly stereotyped: logical Dana, fiery Avra and pusillanimous Emil. Instead of a gripping, emotional story portraying maturation and change, the author's terse work feels more like an unrefined sketch. (Fiction. YA)
Read an Excerpt
From Kissing the Bee
I wanted Emil. I wanted him from the very beginning, before Avra even saw him. No one knew this, even though Avra would occasionally make these odd little jokes, when we were all together: driving somewhere, the radio on and the windows down; or sitting on the patio, under the acacias; or drinking gunpowder tea in our favorite booth at the Green Bowl: If anything ever happens to me, she's say, piling my hand and Emil's together on the lacquered green table, his long fingers, the scarred silver-spoon ring she gave him, you two have to carry on in my name.
Carry what on? I would say, sliding my hand back, my skin electric where it had touched his, a living tingle.
It's the lest we could do, Emil would say. And roll his gray eyes, and smile.
His smile is so sweet. Always with his lips closedthere's this little gap between his front teeth, extremely cute but he is very self-conscious about itlong narrow lips the exact shade of Dark Peach lip balm; his hair is the color of champagne. He is just as tall as Avra but only just. My head barely comes up to his chin. . . . Once he slept with his head on my shoulder, in the backseat of Avra's car. We had gotten bored at this stupid keg partyneither one of us is much of a drinkerso we went out to the car to wait for Avra, waiting and yawning and talking and then not-talking, until Emil finally just gave up and fell asleep. His hairit was longer thenmashed up tickling against my skin, his arm was warm and still and heavy on mine. I took little breaths, tiny little breaths, to breathe in his smell, to not break the spell and wake him up. The street-light shone sideways through the back window, that faint underwater green, and I pretended we were on the ocean somewhere, on a sea journey, a nonstop honeymoon cruise. I leaned my head sideways, craned it sideways, so my hair would brush his. Finally I fell asleep, too.