Wow. This story was not NOT what I expected from the description of this book or the cutesy cover (although the cover is what drew me to this book in the first place). This book tackles some tough topics with humor and realism that made this book a win for me.
From Goodreads: Amanda can’t figure out what’s so exciting about kissing. It’s just a lot of teeth clanking, germ swapping, and closing of eyes so you can’t see that Godzilla-sized zit just inches from your own hormonal monstrosity. All of her seven kisses had been horrible in different ways, but nothing compared to the awfulness that followed Kiss Number Eight. An exploration of sexuality, family, and faith, Kiss Number Eight is a coming-of-age tale filled with humor and hope.
There are A LOT of topics that Venable includes in this book and I like how she managed to balance all of them in a believable way. To say Mads has a tumultuous junior year of high school would be a massive understatement. I don’t want to go into too much detail so I don’t give away any of the surprised or revelations but the thing I loved most about this book is the message I took away from it: that it’s important to decide who you want to be your friends and family and it’s okay to cut people out of your life if they are bad for your mental and emotional health. Too often, we are afraid to end relationships for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or the possible backlash that could occur but Mads learns that there are people out there who will accept her for who she is and that’s worth the effort to find. I love the evolving relationship between Mads and her mom, Mads and her dad, and Mads and her grandparents. Each relationship changes in a way that was believable for the age Mads is and for what is going on in her life. Everyone has that moment where we see our parents as human beings, capable of making mistakes and bad decisions like everyone in the world. How Mads handles this moment was very believable to me and I liked that she is allowed to feel her feelings, as unhealthy and misguided as they may be. As this is a graphic novel, I have to comment of the art. It’s clean, easy to read and follow, and has a vintage vibe that I enjoyed. And while this book is long for a graphic, I found myself wanting a sequel to see what happens between high school and her future.
The issue of homophobia and transphobia is front and center for a lot of this book so that may be triggering to some but Venable does a good job in making the issue understandable to young adults while not shying away from the truth of some people’s hate. I think kids and adults would benefit from reading this book.
Books like this are needed, especially for young adults who are already dealing with complicated feelings and emotions. There are some intense topics, as well as some light hearted moments, told in a way that is very accessible. And the end is perfection. I highly recommend this book.
Author: Colleen A.F. Venable
Illustrations: Ellen T. Crenshaw
Published: March 12, 2019
Rating: 4 Stars