17 Jun 2014

Review: 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen

17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen
June 17th, 319 · Harper Collins
Source: Publisher
Format: ARC
Page Count: 319
No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.

Until Claire meets Luke.

But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.

With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.

In her moving debut, Rachael Allen brilliantly captures the complexities of friendship, the struggles of self-discovery, and the difficulties of trying to find love in high school. Fans of Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, and Stephanie Perkins will fall head over heels for this addictive, heartfelt, and often hilarious modern love story.
17 First Kisses jumped onto my TBR list late last year, but I have to admit that while I liked the sound of it, I was on the fence. And then I read Blythe @ Finding Bliss In Books review and any hesitation I had flew out the window. I was not disappointed.

I love how layered a character Claire was. She loves soccer and kissing boys; can’t wait to leave her hometown to study medicine and has big dreams. She’s definitely one of the most honest, real characters I’ve come across in a long time.

For some, hearing that 17 First Kisses includes slut shaming will be a turnoff. I do not condone or support slut shaming, but whether we like it or not, it’s a real part of reality, especially in high school. One of the things I loved most was that the author doesn’t do the thinking for you or try to send a message. She lays it out on the page and it’s up to you what you take away from it. For instance, she doesn’t include slut shaming, then to weave in how it’s a problem and that you shouldn’t go around doing it. Rather she lets the reader think about how it’s a vicious cycle (like growing up in a household full of swearing. It’s just a matter of time until you pick up those habits) and how easily the S word is branded on a girl, yet guys mess around and are considered cool. It wasn’t until I had time to reflect and ponder that I realised the full extent of how powerful a move this was.

Friendships aren’t perfect and though I think it’s important to showcase strong, healthy relationships, it’s also important to include flawed, rocky ones, like Megan and Claire’s. I think the author perfectly nailed the messiness of complicated friendships while growing up, who at their core, are still just trying to figure out who they are. That isn’t to stay that they didn’t get under my skin though, they did. But again, that made them even more (frustratingly) realistic. Who hasn’t been annoyed by someone’s choices and actions in the past?

I’ve seen this recommended to Courtney Summers fans and while I’ve only read one of her books so far, I can see why. It’s not sugar coated and it doesn’t make apologies for being real, nor is it afraid to broach the big issues. Along with slut shaming and complicated friendships, there's also problems at home, as Claire tries to put her family back together. There's lots going on and being addressed, but I found it never took a turn for depressing. There's a lovely balance; sweet and swoon; light and dark.

I finished 17 First Kisses with the overall feeling of having really, really liked it. Then I saw down to write this review, did some more thinking and spent half the time looking into thin air, grinning like an idiot. This book will not be for everyone (heck, what book is?) and I can see it being quite controversial – the kind you love or hate. Me? I loved it.



  1. I've seen some reviews on this one that have been... okay.. just so-so. But I'm now quite convinced that this is one book that will leave you with a heavy heart, and a fulfilled, enlightened mind. I understand what you mean when you say this book will be "controversial", will be keeping this in my radar for a day when I need some brain food =)

  2. I'm really glad to hear you loved it, Rebecca. I wasn't sure about it either, but after Blythe's review and yours, I think I'm far more curious now. I agree on your points about slut-shaming; I don't entirely like reading about it, and nor do I think it should be presented as anything that is right, but it is a part of reality and will no doubt be present in many books. I'm also glad to hear that despite everything that is going on, there is a balance between the light and heavy aspects. Great review!

  3. I'm so glad you loved this! I've heard great things, and I just ordered it the other day. Really looking forward to reading. Thanks, Rebecca!

  4. Courtney Summers is my favorite author... so any books compared to hers are right up my alley. I am sort of bored with frenemies though. I hope the friendship isn't too catty. Love your review and I will definitely be trying to fit this in this summer :)