Equal parts swoonworthy romance and deeply affecting family drama, this debut novel about the boy next door turned super hot bad boy will have readers hooked from the very first kiss.
After his father’s stroke, Max Holden isn't himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help, but she doesn't know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows she shouldn't let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they're caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it'll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.
With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school suddenly up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart, and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?
Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads, Katy Upperman’s debut novel Kissing Max Holden skillfully navigates the tenuous territory of bad influences, good friends, and complicated families.
Praise for Kissing Max Holden:
"It's equal parts sweet and spicy." —Jessica Love, author of In Real Life
“Wonderfully written and swoony.” —Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan
“Sarah Dessen fans rejoice—you are going to love Kissing Max Holden!” —Lisa Schroeder, author of Chasing Brooklyn
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|File size:||4 MB|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Katy Upperman is a graduate of Washington State University, a former elementary school teacher, and an insatiable reader. When not writing for young adults, Katy can be found whipping up batches of chocolate-chip cookies, or exploring the country with her husband and daughter. Kissing Max Holden is her debut novel.
Katy Upperman is a graduate of Washington State University, a former elementary school teacher, and an insatiable reader. When not writing for young adults, Katy can be found whipping up batches of chocolate chip cookies, or exploring the country with her husband and daughter. Kissing Max Holden is her debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
THE POUNDING AT MY WINDOW COMES LATE, and it scares me shitless.
A second knock quickly follows, rattling the glass in its pane and my heart in my chest. There's such force behind the rapping, I'm half expecting a bloodied, glass-encrusted fist to poke through my curtains.
Our house is silent and inky dark. The last of the trick-or-treaters have called it a night. My parents have stowed the leftover Snickers bars and checked the locks; they've been asleep for hours.
Another knock. More subdued, but still resolute. There's comfort in its persistence. Someone with deviant motives would be sneakier, more cunning. Fear gives way as curiosity blooms, and my stuttering heart resumes a steadier beat.
This knock, his knock, is familiar.
It's been years since Max visited me at night. Years since I let him crawl through my window and sprawl out on my carpet and talk himself gruff until early morning. It's been ages since we've talked at all, really, but I can't ignore him. It's not in his DNA to give up — he'll keep knocking and eventually he'll make enough noise to wake my dad, who'll come to investigate. Max is little more than a peripheral figure in my life these days, but Dad'll be pissed if he finds the neighbor boy lurking outside my window like a creeper.
I flip on a lamp and slip out of bed, straightening my skewed pajama pants as I pad across the carpet. I catch a glimpse of my disheveled reflection in the mirrored closet door and pause to adjust my tank top and smooth my ponytail. I jump when he knocks again, an agitated pummeling of the glass, like he's sensed my ill-timed vanity.
He's there as I draw the curtains back, peering up at me from the poorly lit side yard. The sad slope of his shoulders and the hard set of his jaw do terrible things to my heart.
Max Holden used to be equal parts zesty and sweet, like lemon meringue pie. Bright and jovial, so brilliant I once had to squint when I looked at him. Now, his dazzle has dulled, flattened like a biscuit that refuses to rise. Still, I can't help but hope for his once-trademark grin, the one that says, I knew you'd come.
Of course I'll come. He's Max and I'm Jillian, and that's how it's always been.
But he doesn't smile — he barely makes eye contact. He looks tired, defeated, and deeply unhappy.
I unlock the window and push it up. I don't officially invite him in, but he braces his hands on the sill and hurdles through the opening like a cat burglar. He stretches to his full height — several inches taller than my five-seven — and I look him over, one eyebrow lifted in unconcealed shock: I've never seen him so eccentrically unkempt.
His feet are shoved into tattered moccasin-style slippers — castoffs of his father's, probably — and he's thrown on faded McAlder High sweats, ratty things he wears to wash his truck, another hand-me-down from Bill. His torso is draped in a blousy white shirt with a black, jagged-edged vest over it, a skull and crossbones embroidered over his heart. His dark hair is spiked in every direction, like he recently ditched a too-tight hat. He runs a hand through it when he notices my scrutiny. And his eyes, a gray-blue so deep they're capable of drowning the unsuspecting, are rimmed in liner, thick and black and smudged.
Max isn't a makeup kind of guy.
I stare, perplexed. I look away. Then, because I can't help myself, I peek again.
"What?" he asks.
"Um. You're wearing makeup."
He shrugs. "And you're not."
"It's the middle of the night, Max. What are you doing here?"
He sinks wearily — and without answer — to the floor. He leans against my bed, unfolding his long legs across the eggshell carpet my stepmother, Meredith, had installed a few years ago. His eyes fall shut. His breathing is shallow, disturbingly irregular.
I stand over him. Now that his eyes are closed, I regard him again, turning over the facts I've collected. He's likely drunk. He went to Linebacker Leo's Halloween party, like the rest of our school's population, and from what I heard, his girlfriend, Becky McMahon, accompanied him. Who could blame him if he drained a keg to tolerate her presence?
A draft eddies in from my open window. It doesn't appear to bother Max, but I'm cold in my thin pajamas. I'm also self-conscious in my thin pajamas, which is absurd. It's not as if he hasn't seen me dressed for bed. We've been neighbors for ten years and our parents are close. When I was thirteen, I spent a week with the Holdens while my dad and Meredith honeymooned in Maui. But this — this — is different. We're seventeen, and we're alone.
The air suddenly seems gelatinous. Does he sense it? Probably not. He's slouched against my bed, eyes still shut, features pinched in a scowl. He looks seconds from sleep in his wacky getup.
My brain cranks into overtime. ... Max Holden is in my bedroom, shouldering an air of gloom like heavy armor. The gloom isn't implausible or even surprising, but what is surprising is that he's come here. Though I've tried plenty of times, he hasn't willingly engaged with me — with anyone, as far as I know — in months.
Shivering and desperate for practical action, I step over his idle legs and push my window shut. He's staying, at least for now.
He opens his eyes to the quiet click of the window latch, gazing up at me from beneath heavy lids. "You let me in," he states thickly, as if he's just now realizing.
"You didn't give me much choice. You would've woken my dad if I'd left you out there beating the glass, all drunk and disorderly."
He smirks. "You're glad I'm here."
He doesn't deny the drunk or the disorderly, I notice. "You think so? I was in bed. We have school tomorrow, in case you've forgotten."
"Is that why you weren't at Leo's? 'Cause it's a school night?"
Leo, a huge middle linebacker whose father owns the Chevrolet dealership in town, is one of Max's closest friends, and I wasn't at his Halloween party for a variety of reasons. First, I hate the limited selection of costumes available to girls my age (slutty nurse or skanky angel ... no, thank you). Second, I hate social gatherings that include more than my core group of friends (Leo invites half the school over anytime his parents go out). Third — and probably most significant — I hate watching Becky paw Max like he's a scratching post.
I don't feel compelled to explain any of this, though. Max and I may have been close in another lifetime, but I don't owe him anything now.
"Leah missed you," he says, folding his hands behind his head. The toothed edges of his vest ride up around his ribs.
"I'm sure she had a fantastic time." Leah goes out with Jesse, another of Max's football buddies. I helped her with her peacock costume, an indigo leotard we glued iridescent emerald and violet feathers to. Though she and Kyle, my best friend and McAlder's All-District quarterback, did their damnedest to convince me to go to Leo's, I didn't get the impression my absence would have much bearing on their fun meters. Besides, there was no way I was going to squeeze into the black cat "costume" Kyle pointed out during our trip to the local party supply store.
I eye Max's attire, lips pursed in contemplation. "Don't tell me ... Jack Sparrow?"
"Nah. Just your general parrot-toting, sword-wielding, beer-guzzling buccaneer." His words are perfectly pirate-slurred.
"Sounds like all you got right was the beer guzzling."
He sneers. "Becky was my wench."
"Speaking of your better half, where is she? Oh! Wait! Did she walk the plank? Was she swallowed by a giant squid?"
His laughter, low and uninhibited, surprises me. It's the sound of my childhood: leisurely afternoons spent tossing a football back and forth in the street between his house and mine, gross-out comedies in the Holdens' big bonus room, dripping fudge pops devoured on summer evenings. His bloodshot eyes crinkle at the corners and his head tips back. A small, selfish part of me is flattered that he's here, with me, sharing a chuckle at Becky's expense.
But when his laughter dies, he looks uncomfortable, like he might feel guilty at having experienced even the tiniest bit of joy. He studies his watch, a vintage thing on a worn leather cuff that belongs to his father. Bill has no use for it these days; Max is the one who wears it unfailingly.
He shakes off the memory he fell into and says, "Becky went home." He makes a swilling motion, as if throwing back a drink. "I might've had one too many. Think I pissed her off."
"You think you pissed her off?"
"I spilled beer on her costume. Maybe in her hair. But yeah, she's definitely pissed. She made a big scene and then she left, which was shitty, because she's the one who begged me to go to Leo's in the first place. 'Blow off some steam, Max.' And then, poof" — he swoops an imaginary magic wand through the air — "she was outta there."
"Wow. Some girlfriend."
"Right? For all she knows, I tried to drive home and ended up in a ditch."
I blink away the image of Max's F-150 mangled on the side of a dark road.
"She really left you without a ride?"
"Yeah, but Ivy brought me home."
Of course. Ivy Holden is a year older than Max and me, a grade ahead of us in school. She and Becky might as well be affixed at the hip, but that doesn't keep her from watching out for her brother. "Does Becky know you're here?"
He snorts. "What do you think?"
Honestly, I don't know what to think. ... He ticked his girlfriend off, caught a ride home with his sister, then stumbled across the street to my house. How scandalous. Yet there's something right about his visit, even after all this time. I shiver again, though the window's sealed tight. Sure, Max is blitzed, but he came to me.
He captures my gaze, inhaling like he's preparing to admit something of utmost importance. He's so serious, so un-Max-like, I stoop down to give him my full attention. Quietly he says, "I don't wanna be at home, Jill. I hate home. I've hated it since ..."
His voice shrivels, but I know what he intended to say: since my dad's stroke.
He pretends to be impervious. He slogs through his classes, working just hard enough to maintain a GPA that'll keep him on the varsity football roster, then boozes it up with Becky on the weekends. He acts like he's fine, like he's handling it, but those of us who know him, really know him, see how much he's changed.
It's been almost six months since Bill Holden — patriarch, football fanatic, and my dad's longtime friend — collapsed while pushing his mower across his front lawn. Max, the only other Holden home at the time, found him unconscious in the grass. He called 911, and then he called my father. Dad and I stood in the yard with him while Bill was loaded into an ambulance, an experience profound in its gravity. Poor Max — he was a little boy all over again: scared, sorry, close to caving under the weight of my dad's hand on his trembling shoulder.
Later, at the hospital, we learned that Bill had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, the result of an undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm that burst and caused bleeding in his brain. The damage is, for the most part, irreversible. He'll never again be the vital, active man he was, no matter how much his son drinks. No matter how desperately Marcy, his wife, prays. No matter how often his daughters — Ivy and Zoe — act out or micromanage.
The impact of Bill's stroke was instant, and instantaneously unraveling.
Since my dad's stroke ... It's there, loitering in the air, ominous as a storm cloud.
Max's jaw is clenched and his eyes are inflamed and I'm horrified. He's had too much to drink, and now he's battling emotion he's kept corked for months. I should let him say what he needs to say. Just spit it out and fall apart and be done with it. But the idea of tears trailing down his face guts me.
I reach toward him, brushing my fingertips along smudged charcoal liner. He exhales, but stays still. There's beer on his breath. Something warm and spicy, too — cinnamon — and it's inexplicably appealing. I have the briefest, most inappropriate thought ever: I wonder what he tastes like?, before I remember how damaged he is. Tonight he needs a friend, not a neighbor with indiscriminate hormones.
My fingers shake as they skim the kohl line of his eye. Touching him tangles my emotions — surprise snarled with self-awareness, embarrassment twisted with wonder. We've barely had physical contact over the last couple of years, but I committed the velvety quality of his skin to memory long ago.
He sighs, and I come to my senses. The last thing I want is to disrupt the trust he's instilling in me, but there's only so far I'm willing to go. Max has a girlfriend, one who'd breathe fire if she knew I was touching him. Besides, in the morning, after hours spent anxiously obsessing, this whole experience will seem dreadfully bizarre.
As my fingers drop away, he opens his eyes, catching my hand as it falls. I try not to fidget as he stretches it open, holds it close to his face, and studies my palm like he's reading my fate. My fingertips are stained an odd carrot color because I spent Halloween the same way I spend most evenings: baking. The orange food tint I used to color marzipan for pumpkin cupcakes is evidence. Layered over the orange, accentuating the dips and valleys of my fingerprints, is the black liner I lifted from his pirate makeup.
He folds my palm into the web of his and drops our knotted fingers to his lap, like the two of us holding hands is the most ordinary thing in the world. "Why are you being nice?"
"I'm always nice," I say, distracted by the heat of his hand against mine.
"Remember when we were friends?"
"Max. We're still friends."
"Not like we used to be."
"Nothing's like it used to be." The admission makes my chest ache.
"Remember when you used to hang out with me, not Kyle?" There's a sharpness to his voice that's alien, not to mention confusing. There's no reason to be jealous of Kyle, and Max knows as much. But if Kyle's not the issue, what is? Is he trying to provoke me? Has his never-ending series of fights with Becky turned him mean?
Whether he intends to or not, he's proving my point — nothing is like it used to be.
"Remember when you used to hang out with me, not your teammates?" I counter, tossing my ponytail over my shoulder. "Not Becky?"
Predictably, he ignores my rebuttal. "Why don't I ever see you anymore?"
Because you're always playing football, or partying, or out with your girlfriend, I want to say, but I sense those words won't help. Instead, I tell him a different truth. "We grew up."
"That's such bullshit."
All at once, I regret letting him into my room. I tug my hand out of his. The lost connection combined with the bite of his tone make my stomach roil. "Don't put this on me," I say. "A lot has happened, stuff I've had no control over."
"What? You mean Becky?"
I mean his father, but the hurt he wore a few minutes ago flashes in my mind and I can't bring myself to mention Bill, who's had to leave his half of the Hatz-Holden Logging management responsibilities to Marcy. Bill, who's confined to a wheelchair, who needs help eating, dressing, using the bathroom. Bill, who has a hard time communicating a simple hello.
I stand. The ghost of Max's touch makes my palm tingle, but I feel better now that I've put some distance between us. I'll go to my desk, littered with cookbooks and recipe cards. I'll read my latest issue of Bon Appétit. I'll get ahead on my English lit assignment. I'll ignore Max until he sobers up, and then I'll send him on his way. I'll pay for these late hours tomorrow, but there's no way I can get comfy in bed with Blackbeard acting all wasted on my floor.
I'm stepping high over his legs, fuming at his audacity — his idiocy — when he grabs the hem of my pants. I lose my balance, wobbling on one foot like a dizzy flamingo, until I'm forced to give in to the inertia of his pull. I drop into his lap, landing with an embarrassing oof. Judging by the look on his face — chagrin swirled with a generous dash of unadulterated amusement — he's more shocked by my new seat than I am.
I'm mortified beyond words — beyond recovery, apparently — while he stares at me, biting his lip against what must be hysterics. "Jesus, Jill. What'd you drink tonight?"
I struggle to right myself. "Nothing, thank you very much."
Excerpted from "Kissing Max Holden"
Copyright © 2017 Katy Upperman.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm sorry, do you hear someone screaming "HELL NO" into the night?? Because that's me. This book was horrible, completely horrible. Here's a list of why! - Max, the love interest, CHEATS. - This cheating is supposedly justified. - Max is an alcoholic. - Max treats his girlfriend horribly. - Max CHEATS ON HIS GIRLFRIEND. Commence the "screaming into the night" - Jill... - Jill... *sighs* cheats with Max. And she recognizes it as wrong. AND SHE JUSTIFIES IT BECAUSE the girlfriend is apparently rude. UM NO THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS, JILL. - *more sighing* I'm also kind of disappointed at myself because I thought this would be cute and sweet! No! No! No! It's an annoying cheating story.
I absolutely adored this book and the rollercoaster of emotions it took me on. I loved Jill and Max, their friendship, relationship and just dynamic in general. They were both flawed characters and i really enjoyed how natural their relationship seemed. Kyle was a great character too and a friend I'd love to have. Becky was horrible, but I'm pretty sure she was meant to be a Umbridge type character. I really loved the parents (minus one - no spoilers) in this book too. Learning their stories was fun and somewhat unexpected for a YA contemporary. Overall I'd highly recommend Kissing Max Holden and look forward to reading Katy's next book.
Pretty great book
BE STILL MY HEART! This book grabbed me from page 1. There’s so much I love about this story. On the surface it’s a friends to lovers romance, but it’s deeper than that. First of all, there may be some spoilers here. I’m trying to keep them VERY mild so they won’t spoil your enjoyment of the story. The characters in this book are amazing. Jillian is the good girl. She’s an only child, a straight A student, and an excellent baker with dreams of going to a prestigious cooking school in New York City. Max is the bad boy. He was Jillian’s best friend growing up, but after his father had a stroke, he took it really hard. He started acting out, getting drunk, and partying. But these characters are so much more than that. When Jillian’s family life gets rocky, we see her struggle to cope. Meanwhile, we see that Max is more than a party boy. He’s really broken up, wracked with guilt over his father’s stroke, convinced it’s his fault. He’s in a rocky relationship with his sisters best friend, and though she treats him like garbage, he knows that part of that is because of how he’s treating her. But being a teenager under so much stress, he doesn’t have the maturity to handle things properly. When Jill and Max fall into a physical (kissing/making out) relationship this sparks new feelings and emotions in both. They both know it’s wrong, because Max has a girlfriend, but they both want it. If you hate cheating under any condition, this might not be the book for you. I personally feel it was handled well. There are actually multiple cheating storylines going on here, and I felt like the author tackled them nicely. Because here’s the thing. We’re all human. People make mistakes. Is cheating right? No. It’s selfish and disrespectful. But what makes this story so beautiful is how the characters deal with their actions. The consequences they suffer. I really don’t want to say too much because it would really spoil the book. I’ll just say this, Jillian feels 100% guilty for having ever kissed Max while he was still seeing his girlfriend, even if he instigated it. She even puts an end to things because even though she does want to be with him, she doesn’t want to be the other woman. So should you read this? If you have zero tolerance for cheating story lines under any condition, run far away. However, if you want a steamy/funny/sweet romance with a good message – despite the cheating – dive into this one.
Such a great contemporary! I am a dessert enthusiast, and this book was a treat (pun intended) to read. I loved the different yummy goods Jill was always whipping up in the kitchen, and how she would compare people to different desserts. The romance was definitely swoon-worthy, and the teen angst well done. I am an Upperman fan!
If you like swoony reads and broody book boyfriends then KISSING MAX HOLDEN is definitely one summer read you are not going to want to miss! I expected some pretty swoontastic kissing scenes in this book just from reading the title, and Katy Upperman more than delivered. There is a lot of kissing in this book, A LOT. And those scenes are just oh-so-sweet and absolutely scintillating. There is so much emotional depth in this story from the difficult familial situations both Max and Jill find themselves in to the pitfalls of everyday teenage life and the massive pressure that comes with having to make decisions that impact your future. This book is the perfect balance and sweet and sentimental and it is one seriously fun read that will certainly be a hit with YA contemporary readers.
O.M.G. This BOOK! I LOVE this book so much I don’t even know where to begin. Kissing Max Holden is just so raw and real and beautifully written. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, Swoon Reads (Macmillan Children Publishing Group), via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I’ve been on a YA contemporary romance binge lately so when I saw the cover and title, I was super excited for a cutesy teen love story. I definitely did some major swooning and there were many mind-blowing kisses that gave me all the FEELS…But my heart was not prepared to be torn in pieces. My emotions are seriously all over the place right now… but in the best kind of way. Max and Jilly are so perfect. I absolutely ADORED them and rooted for them so hard. They’re next door neighbors and longtime friends, but drifted apart after a life-changing misfortune. That is, until one very steamy KISS. A kiss that sparks an unexpected attraction they both can’t ignore. And damn THAT KISS was hot… Actually all the kisses were sizzling and lit my senses on fire! Oh and the chemistry between Max and Jilly –RIDICULOUSLY AHH-MA-ZING!! I honestly could not get enough. They are just so darn cute together! The plot is so well written, realistic and deeply moving. The characters are complex and flawed, but you love them anyway because they’re so real and relatable. Most of them are dealing with some of the most difficult life situations that you just can’t help but feel for them. Katy Upperman definitely does not shy away from showing you the hardest parts of life. But, amidst all the pain and heartaches, she also gives you that sense of hope that life can and does get better. And just in case you were wondering, there were definitely some tears… I love it when a book can make me cry. This book holds such special place in my heart and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Upperman’s gorgeous storytelling. She does such a great job delivering an unforgettable heart-wrenching story about first love, heartbreak, tragedy, forgiveness and hope. I seriously can’t recommend this book enough and I’m so excited to read whatever she writes next. For more reviews, visit my blog - sincerelykarenjo.wordpress.com
Ms Upperman is a debut author I'll definitely be on the lookout for more from! Kissing Max Holden's Jill and Max are far from perfect people, which makes their story all the more likable. I loved that Jill was so passionate about baking--she did it to express love, to keep herself calm and centered, and to make sense of her world--and all of the little baking metaphors that the author threw into the narrative were so much fun. (It also made me kind of hungry, so plan your reading snacks accordingly.) Max had more than a few issues to work through, and he does (eventually) make a pretty good effort, which made me like him all the more. The ending of the book left me with a pretty good case of the feels all around, and lived up to the promise of that pretty, pretty cover :) Trigger warning: there is infidelity (with both young adults and adults--though I would argue that in the case of the latter it's much more consequential; the YA couple really just kissed while one was in a relationship, as the title suggests), so if that's a no-go for you, you might want to steer clear. You'd be missing a darn good debut story if you did, though. Rating: 4 stars / B+ I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
One night, Jill hears a tap on her bedroom window in the middle of the night, just to find her neighbor Max on the other side. In a weak moment, Jill lets a very drunk Max into her room and he ends up kissing her, something that catches Jill my surprise, but she finds she likes it. But her father catches them, and bans her form seeing Max, which isn't a problem, right? But maybe it is since Jill might have hidden feelings for Max she did not realize before, but unfortunately he has a girlfriend. It could not be more complicated. I had been wanting to read this book for months when I first heard about and I was so excited to get my hands on the advanced copy. All my friends who got there hands on it raved about how cute and wonderful this book was, so my expectations were incredibly high. That being said, I found this to be a really solid book that focused on relationship dynamics, not just between Max and Jill, but between Jill and her family and friends, as well as Max and his family. There was also a lot of growing up that happened in the pages, where Jill learned what family was, how to deal with disappointment and unexpected situations and how to make the best of whatever is thrown at you. I liked Jill as a character right from the start. I was a little miffed at how she was with Max after the shock of the first initial kiss, which was not her fault and she was caught off guard. But the way she kept seeking out Max and letting him use her made me want her to grow some self worth, and I hated how negative she was about his girlfriend Becky, who I will admit I felt bad for even though the book tried to make her the bad guy. On one hand I knew that the plot dealt with Max and Jill kissing even though he had a girlfriend, but I don't think that I really thought about the story being about cheating, which I hate! So for like half the book I was irritated at the relationship between the two, and when Jill finally stood up for herself I wanted to cheer. I absolutely loved Kyle as her bestie, how supportive, available and level-headed he was. But my favorite relationship in the story was between Jill and her stepmom Meredith. I anticipated the sterotype of evil step-monster, but that was not the case. At first the two sort of coexisted but didn't interact, but then at a certain super awkward (for Jill) moment, they became family and I loved it. I spent the first half of the book not liking Max, the love interest, hating his relationship and life choices, hoping some other guy would come in and sweep Jill of her feet (she made herself too available to Max!) but alas that never happened. But there was a sneaky moment in the book that I did not even notice at first that changed my mind with out me being aware of it- when I tried to figure out what it was, I realized it was when he taught Jill how to take care of her baby sister. I guess there is just something about a big strong guy who loves and is perfectly capable of taking care of a baby that I can't resist. So after our relationship turning point, I started to like Max and I loved how well he tried to take care of Jill. I think they balanced each other nicely, her maturity and his spark of fun. If only they got together that summer she walked the angry dog... So yes, this is a romance between Jill and Max, but can I just say that I was in lust with all the delicious sounding treats that filled the book?
“Still, I can’t help but hope for his once-trademark grin, the one that says, I knew you’d come. Of course I’ll come. He’s Max and I’m Jillian, and that’s how it’s always been.” Let’s start this off on a positive note. I actually liked this a lot more than I was expecting. I was a little nervous going in, because cheating is one of my least favorite things in YA books. But I actually ended up enjoying this book quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the cheating still annoyed me, but I didn’t hate the characters, which I a big step up for me. Kissing Max Holden follows childhood friends Jillian Eldridge and Max Holden as they navigate family troubles, high school drama, and growing feelings. Things I Liked I actually really loved Jillian and Max’s relationship. They have so much history from family BBQs and holiday parties, to vacationing together, you feel their connection. I love that Max made an effort to be more involved in her hobbies, because she supported his football. It was a really genuine moment that showed their friendship and care for one another. Plus, the friends-to-lovers tropes is always a favorite. This story was filled with so much emotion and tension. Max and Jillian are not afraid to get angry with each other and call each other out. Or tell the other when they are upset. I like they really talk to each other, and Max apologizes for acting kind of awful in the beginning of the story, it showed some nice growth on his part. I love baking, and I love when I encounter characters who love baking too! Jillian’s passion and enthusiasm for all things baking was a lot of fun for me personally. Things I Didn’t Like I said it before, and I’ll say it again now: I hate cheating in YA books, the characters always come off as selfish and unlikeable. While I did still hate the cheating here, I like that the characters discuss the cheating and don’t excuse it. I felt like Jillian had a pretty bad attitude. She was snarky about her stepmom and future baby sister (both of these tension points are resolved nicely), a little girl shame-y, and selfish. But as I said, she does have some growth and moments where I did genuinely like her. Kissin Max Holden is a swoony read filled with love, drama, and friendship. The incredibly well established relationship won me over, and I found myself flying through the story. It was a really fun read that was extremely entertaining. I received a copy of the books from Swoon Read via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
BFF to more is one of my favorite tropes and even though I wasn't thrilled with the girlfriend aspect, I was excited to read this book. I love love loved Jillian. She's strong and loyal and one heck of a baker. I enjoyed how passionate she was about pastries and my mouth was watering over all of the things she made. Max was cocky and sweet and so so so infuriating. Together they were adorable. Plot wise, there was a good amount of push and pull between Jillian and Max, but I could overlook a lot of it because Jillian never backed down. She stood up for herself, she spoke her feelings even when Max didn't or wouldn't. The small miscommunications also didn't register too much because they were open about so many other, more major issues. This story is heavily character driven and I loved every part of it. Well, except for Jillian's dad, but whatever. I would have liked just a little bit more from the ending, but it was satisfying at the same time. I'm sure I'll be skimming parts of this book in the future. **Huge thanks to Swoon Reads for providing the arc free of charge**