Thursday, May 1, 2008

Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (May 13, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375842489
ISBN-13: 978-0375842481

In Confessions of a Serial Kisser, Evangeline has always been a "good girl," receiving good grades, hanging out with "good friends." She now lives with her mother in a tiny apartment having moved out of her childhood home after her parents' separation. One day she's cleaning in her mother's room and finds a box of romance novels under her mother's bed. One of these books, A Crimson Kiss, draws her in, and she sets upon a mission to get her own crimson kiss. This mission soon becomes an obsession as she kisses nearly every boy who crosses her path, including her best friend's boyfriend. As her reputation and relationship with her friend are damaged, she's coming to terms with her father's betrayal and his attempt at reconciliation with both her and her mother. Her life seems to be spiraling out of control as she searches for her crimson kiss.

While it's a good idea to expose teenagers to classic, thought-provoking literature, to truly make them lifelong readers, they need to have fun with reading. Give them the opportunity to read fun books that interest them because if reading always seems like homework, they will quickly get turned off. Confessions of a Serial Kisser is a light-hearted book whose title and pink cover with the big red lip print will beg girls to pull it off the shelf. Though it is funny at times and a fast read, its flaws will prevent it from becoming as well loved as Van Draanen's Flipped.

Many readers will find Evangeline annoying. She kisses boys without thinking of the repercussions, and she's super quick to judge others when she herself is not a model of good behavior. Robbie Marshall is a "dumb jock," Eddie Pasco is a "stoner," and she's downright cruel to poor Roper Harding who has obvious personal hygiene issues. Speaking of Eddie Pasco, there's this weird, overwhelming and forced anti-drug messaging in book. Eddie is one of Evangeline's "victims," and when she realizes he's a stoner, he becomes the scum of the earth while, Izzy, the creepy record store owner seems like a likely stoner himself. It almost felt like a cheesy PSA at times.

There were also some awkward passages that didn't really seem to fit. Evangeline is a rock 'n roll girl, and it's rock 'n roll that helps heal her relationship with her father in the end. She identifies with music and listens to it constantly, which is a truly believable characteristic. However, there are times in the book when Evangeline is listening to music, and she throws out the name of the band, the album, and all of the songs. It interrupts the flow and seems more like Van Draanen's, (a professed fan of rock 'n roll as indicated in the jacket flap) homage to her favorite bands. Also, the fact that Evangeline seems to be a self-taught master hair stylist is also a little unbelievable, and that she has to "babe herself up" to get guys is also a disappointing.

To be a truly good book, the reader really has to identify with the main character, and many girls won't be able to do this with Evangeline. While the concept is entertaining, the execution of a believable, likable character is not there.

Not EVERYONE agrees with me. See what other bloggers are saying:
Bookshelves of Doom: "Evangeline's voice never really worked for me. She never crossed the line of being a character on the page to becoming a person in my head, and so I was never fully pulled into the story. Because of that, the dialogue never really worked either -- and so the book ended up feeling like a 290+ page sitcom, complete with loads of exclamation points and the end-of-the-episode Big Lesson."

What I Blogged: "Plenty of surprises, plenty of laughs, and plenty of complications. This is all held together with a really touching story about dealing with a beloved parent’s betrayal."

Biblio File: "Overall, it was a nice book about finding yourself and how you won't be crimson without some attraction. There was friend drama that I didn't fully understand, because there were some serious flaws in that relationship even before Evangeline starts going kiss-crazy."


  1. I totally agree that the rock & roll felt more like Van Draanen than Evangeline.

    This is a really thoughtful review. Nice one.

  2. I haven't read this book and my only child is seven-months-old. My comment isn't about the book reviewed; it's about the concept you introduced. You said:

    "While it's a good idea to expose teenagers to classic, thought-provoking literature, to truly make them lifelong readers, they need to have fun with reading."

    I would suggest that we encourage our children to have fun with classic literature. I just read my baby Winnie-the-Pooh and I think it's classic and fun. Just because a children's book is "classic" and "thought-provoking" doesn't mean it's not fun or that it makes reading like homework. Reading always can and should be fun.

    Like I said, I haven't read the book you're reviewing, so no comments on that.

  3. Leila,
    Thanks for stopping by and for your positive feedback!

  4. Hi Rebecca,
    Thanks for visiting, and I'm in complete agreement. I should have expanded on my statement. When I taught high school, I was astounded and disheartened by the number of kids who thought reading was just something you do in school and that it was boring. In fact, many of them had never read a book for fun and were never really given the opportunity to choose a book that might have interested them.

    I was also surprised at the number of teachers and parents who wanted their children to only read what they consider to be classic books or books that teach a lesson or "make you think." They would look down on a book like "Confessions Like a Serial Kisser," because it seems silly. But sometimes it takes a book like that to turn them onto reading and to make them realize that it's not so "boring." I think it makes them more likely to pick up and enjoy more serious literature and opens doors to reading.

    So, I absolutely agree with you that we should encourage our kids to have fun with classic literature. Sometimes they may want to read something else, and that's okay, too.

  5. I hate these pinks novels, full of stupid common places and insipid plot, it don't deserves a review from a serious reader.

  6. Non of your informationDecember 5, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    I agree with everything, but what we are really lokking forward to is the end part of the story. I want to know what happens at the end. least try summarizing the end. Thank You for your time.