Thursday, 6 March 2014

Review: The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik

Title: The Last Best Kiss
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Release date: April 22nd 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Format: eARC
Pages: 225
Source: Edelweiss

Anna Eliot is tired of worrying about what other people think. After all, that was how she lost the only guy she ever really liked, Finn Westbrook.

Now, three years after she broke his heart, the one who got away is back in her life.

All Anna wants is a chance to relive their last kiss again (and again and again). But Finn obviously hasn’t forgotten how she treated him, and he’s made it clear he has no interest in having anything to do with her.

Anna keeps trying to persuade herself that she doesn’t care about Finn either, but even though they’ve both changed since they first met, deep down she knows he’s the guy for her. Now if only she can get him to believe that, too....

With her signature wit and expertly authentic teen voice, Claire LaZebnik (the author of fan favorites Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting) once again breathes new life into a perennially popular love story. Fans of Polly Shulman, Maureen Johnson, and, of course, Jane Austen will love this irresistibly funny and romantic tale of first loves and second chances.

I loved The Trouble with Flirting by Claire LaZebnik, so I was definitely eager to read more from her. Plus, The Last Best Kiss is a retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen. I haven't read Persuasion, but I've read another retelling of it, a dystopian one (For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund). So I was intrigued to see how the story of this one would compare to that. I loved the cuteness in this that's typical of LaZebnik, though this one is a little more serious than the others.

Three years ago, Anna was kind of shallow, and cared way too much about what people thought of her. Though she made good friends with Finn, the geeky guy in her carpool, she hid it from her friends. Then, when she and Finn became more than friends, she hid that too and totally blew him off in public. Finn ended up moving away, leaving Anna in regret. Now, Finn Westbrook is back. And way cuter. But of course he doesn't want anything to do with Anna. They're distant with each other, but hang out in the same friend group. When the entire group goes to a music festival for the weekend, things.. happen.

I found it really easy to identify with this book for the most part, because the characters are in their senior year of high school, fretting about SATs and college applications. I was in the same position until just a month ago, so I know exactly how they feel. One thing I found weird though, is that everyone in their friend group ends up getting into and going to amazing universities. I mean, Yale, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Brown, RISD, Tufts. It was a little unbelievable to me, especially since it seemed comparatively easy to them, when some Ivies have single digit acceptance rates. Okay, I think I'm focusing a little too much on the college stuff. But I loved that Hilary, one of my favourite characters in the book, ends up going to the same university I'll be attending! I know she's fictional, but I pretty much had a mental squeal moment.

I didn't like ninth-grade Anna, the one who treated Finn like he was nothing when her friends were around. But twelfth-grade Anna is a lot more likeable. She's matured, and she's different. Though I still don't like most of her friends, I like her more assertive personality. And the fact that she loves a certain aspect of art and won't let anyone sway her away from it. Anna has a pretty bad home life, and I really hated her dad and sister, Lizzie. Her other sister, though, was awesome. And I liked that LaZebnik mixed characters of different sexual orientations in this book.

Though Anna is the main protagonist of the novel and the one whose perspective we see, Finn is easier for me to connect with. He's definitely changed from three years ago, and I feel sad that it was mostly because of Anna. But he's definitely more confident, and way smoother. And I liked seeing glimpses of the geek boy he used to be. What I enjoyed most about Finn and Anna together is the fact that they really clicked. When they're among their friends and despite them not talking to one another, you can tell how much they have in common. It's also really sweet to see that they remember little things about each other from so long ago!

I liked Anna and Finn, but there were a few characters in this book I really couldn't warm to. I pretty much despised Lily. She's flamboyant and supposedly unique. She doesn't care what people think of her, and Finn is attracted to that at first. At first. Then he realizes how annoying she is, as the readers would too. Lily bugged me so much, I wanted to go in there and punch her in the face. I don't know how the others stick with her. In contrast, her twin sister Hilary is honest and rational, and I found myself really liking her. She's loyal, and seems like a great friend to have. Lucy, Anna's best friend, is the one obsessed with college applications. Surprise surprise, she gets into Yale. Oscar is the only guy in the book I liked other than Finn. Oscar is gay, and I admired that he came out in high school, where everyone tries their best to fit in. This novel is great for teenagers, because a lot of us would identify with some of these kids.

The weekend of the music festival is the time that everything changes, and I'd say it's pretty climatic. Leading up to that point, things were looking a little dreary to me, so that definitely got me interested again. And the rest of the novel after that was really sweet. Lovely ending, though quite clichéd. Well, I guess that's a given in a cute YA contemporary. I certainly enjoyed reading The Last Best Kiss, and I would definitely check out LaZebnik's future books. Hopefully more retellings!

*Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with an eARC for review*

Rating: 3/5

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