Happy summer! Thank you for clicking on my blog—I appreciate you guys. 🙂 This review is something a bit different from what I normally focus on: I saw 26 Kisses on the shelf at Target and something in me craved a brainless, summery “guilty pleasure” volume. This book didn’t disappoint in that department!

Anna Michels’s female lead, Veda Bentley, is dumped by her boyfriend, Mark, minutes after he graduates from their high school. With her senior summer looming in front of her, Veda decides to take her friend Mel up on a dare—an attempt to help Veda get over Mark that involves her trying to kiss 26 boys. The rules are funny, a bit flexible, and the way they begin to play out is both hilarious and (at times) cringe-worthy! I was trying to think of a good, unique format for this review, and it hit me: Why not do 26 pros and cons? So won’t you join me, as we go through the alphabet of 26 Kisses? Be warned, fairly significant spoilers ahead. 🙂

[Red= con, or something I didn’t personally like]

[Blue= pro—strong points, good aspects—you’re smart, you know.]

A: Alcohol everywhere! [Yes, it’s a high school stereotype; but the youth in Butterfield, Michigan rarely seem to socialize without copious amounts of it]

B: Bipolar Barry [Veda’s father has two families, and seems to exhibit opposite characteristics with each. While this is realistic to an extent, it edges on going a bit too far]

C: Characterization [Everybody has layers, ranges of emotions, and maturity arcs]

D: Divorce portrayal [There are repercussions for years—Michel’s characters don’t simply sweep everything under the rug, forgive my cliché]

E: Emotionally immature/absent adults [Parents often don’t care or know where their children are; and when they do interact, rarely are any of them emotionally supportive or mature enough to impart wisdom.

F: Fallout [Near the end, Veda breaks down after some unwise choices and straining circumstances. It’s good to see her humanity and the effects of decisions]

G: Good length/pacing [No wasted scenes, the action flowed efficiently, and the plot built and ended naturally]

H: High school’s the end [Veda and her friends exhibit microscopic amounts of ambition for their lives past school—it’s natural to lament a looming graduation; but her goals outside the present are almost nonexistent]

I: Imagery [This is probably my favorite part of the narration, and possibly the book. So many beautiful lines and passages about food, summer days, appearances, and so on. Extremely well done]

J: Jacket [Plainly and simply, I like the design. The challenge rules are on the back cover; the synopsis hooked me. The colors are pretty.]

K: Killian’s lack of support [When a main character doesn’t support Veda’s challenge, Veda paints this in a negative light. While this is her perspective, by the end I still didn’t see any specific redemption of Killian’s caring efforts]

L: Love takes time [Veda doesn’t jump into another serious relationship right away; in fact, she deliberately resolves to give herself time despite the challenge. I liked the non-Disney presentation of the process]

M: Mary-Sue syndrome [Albeit a mild case, near the end I reflected on just how many guys ended up with positive opinions of Veda, if not preferences for her]

N: Non-cliché DTRs [Or “Define the Relationship” talks. It’s not butterscotch and icing all the time, and feelings can be raw. Sometimes characters call each other out on stuff. A lot of times, actually]

O: Overblown emotions [breakdowns are lifelike; but every character in this book has at least one moment where their reactions are exaggerated. Either forced, exuberant cheerfulness, persistent lowness of mood…etc.]

P: “Prude” condescension [“If you haven’t kissed and/or slept with more than one guy, you’re inexperienced. So we gotta fix that, don’t we?”]

Q: Quitting is for considerate people [Veda crosses the line of caring about feelings and consequences…and decides to keep going. While it somewhat fits her character, it’s also presented in an iffy way…]

R: Relatable things/feelings [Breakup emotions, wavering on decisions, reactions to family and friends…I could identify with a lot of these moments. Michels does a good job authenticating her characters]

S: Sibling portrayal [Love ‘em, hate ‘em, forgive ‘em, drive ’em around places even when you don’t want to…]

T: Technology integration [Formatting little texts and lists into the narrative was a good, youthful touch]

U: Undulating reactions to disappearances [If Veda’s off by herself at a beach party for two hours, nobody freaks out; but if she wanders off at a summer concert for less time, she gets 11 texts and 3 phone calls…so…what’s the factor?]

V: Value of everyone [Veda reaches out to people in different social circles, and up enjoys much of her time with unfamiliar people. The message that everyone has value, regardless of cliques or personal interests, is a good one]

W: Well-stocked action [Again, no dull, empty scenes. I finished this book in 2 days!]

X: Ex-boyfriend ex machina [Not a big deal for your ex to pick you up from a miserable family function on desperate demand…but not completely common, either. Might be a tad too convenient.]

Y: Yes, they are talking about you [Veda’s actions have consequences. Word gets around. Awkward moments ensue. It’s good that she’s not just in her little plot-car bubble with people who will develop amnesia come fall semester]

Z: Zero comprehensive lists! [Individual records of kisses, but no exhaustive one at the end! I wanted to keep track…haha, maybe just a personal preference, but still!]

All right, that about does it for this alphabetical review! Let me know what your favorite vacation reads are in the comments, or what you’re picking up by the pool or beach this summer!

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