Rummanah Aasi
Description: Mads is pretty happy with her life. She goes to church with her family, and minor league baseball games with her dad. She goofs off with her best friend Cat, and has thus far managed to avoid getting kissed by Adam, the boy next door. It's everything she hoped high school would be... until all of a sudden, it's not. Her dad is hiding something big--so big it could tear her family apart. And that's just the beginning of her problems: Mads is starting to figure out that she doesn't want to kiss Adam... because the only person she wants to kiss is Cat. Just like that, Mads's tidy little life has gotten epically messy--and epically heartbreaking. And when your heart is broken, it takes more than an awkward, uncomfortable, tooth-clashing, friendship-ending kiss to put things right again. It takes a whole bunch of them.

Review: There is a lot that I liked about the National Book Award graphic novel finalist, Kiss Number 8, specifically its attempt to address transphobia, sexuality, religion, and hypocrisy, but the execution of the story fell flat for me. Amanda lives in a conservative community with her deeply religious parents. Her social circle includes her friends from Catholic school, Cat, Adam, and Laura, but her best friend is her father. After overhearing a phone conversation and a mysterious letter that upsets him, Amanda realizes that he's hiding something and assumes he is having an affair, but her parents refuse to answer her questions, leaving her angry and betrayed. While dealing with the turmoil at home, Amanda also ponders why her first seven kisses, all with boys, aren't as stirring as kiss number eight, with Laura, and why she feels something deeper than friendship for Cat. While both of these subplots occur simultaneously, there is an explosive confrontation with her parents and grandparents lead to a difficult realization, shaking up all of Amanda's familial relationships and friendship.
  I thought the narrative for this graphic novel was a bit convoluted and both subplots seemed underdeveloped to me. The secrets behind Amanda's trans-grandparent was the strongest of the two story lines, but it was resolved too quickly as the characters spend more time proclaiming their trans- and homophobic views and then suddenly changed their way of thinking towards the end. I also was really confused about Amanda's 'crush' on Cat as I didn't see any indication of her questioning her sexuality until it was blatantly expressed by Jess and even then it is still unclear. I also did not appreciate Cat's character as there were strong undertones male characters slut-shaming her and her being a truly awful friend. I liked the art's retro feel and thought it was strong when depicting the contrast between truth and lies, but I was also a bit confused as to the time period of the graphic novel. The earlier panels seem to indicate that the story takes place post 2000, but the characters use IM and old phones. While I appreciated what the graphic novel was trying to do, it felt very surface level to me.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, transphobic and homophobic slurs, crude sexual humor, a brief scene of sex and nudity, undertones of slut shaming, and scenes of underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
1 Response
  1. I have an issue when a youth's best friend is a parent. It just doesn't sit well with me. Too bad this one isn't as good as the issues suggest it will be.

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