Pub. Date: October 25, 2016
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: Sweet sixteen and never been kissed . . .
That’s Aurora Skye’s big secret. And the way she wants it to stay. She’s not going to give away her first kiss to just anyone. Busy dodging suitors and matchmaking for her best friends, Aurora (not so) patiently awaits her prince.
But everything changes when Aurora is coerced into a lead role in the school production of Much Ado about Nothing. Which means she’ll have to lock lips with her co-star Hayden Paris—the smart and funny boy next door who also happens to be the bane of her existence, always around to see her at her worst.
Now Aurora is more determined than ever to have her first kiss with the one who’s truly worthy of it. But first she’ll have to figure out just who that person is.
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Retelling, Romance
Aurora is sixteen (and a half!) and has never been kissed. Oh, sure, she’s gone on dates with several boys, but every single one has ended with Operation Stop Kiss, a drastic plan put into action to instantly kill the mood and bring the night to a smooch-free end. Growing up obsessed with Sleeping Beauty, Aurora is bound and determined to save her first kiss for her very own Prince and has even started a matchmaking service at school in order to help other girls find Princes (capital P!) of their own.
While helping her bestie get over an ex-boyfriend, Aurora mistakenly winds up playing the lead in the school’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, a role that not only puts her alongside Hayden Paris, her archnemisis, but also requires a kissing scene. Completely unable to find a way out of this disaster of a play, Aurora is determined more than ever to find her true love.
Originally published in Australia in 2013, How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You is now hitting the US where I’m positive it’ll find a whole new audience. That said, let me cut right to the chase: Aurora is painfully stuck on the idea of being Sleeping Beauty. She wants to find her Prince (again, capital P) when it really sounds like what she wants to do if find a husband and settle down. I’m all for fluffy, giggly, daydreamy romances, but Aurora took it a step too far. She’s only 16, but at times came across sounding MUCH younger. Yet because of her search for what is essentially a spouse, the feel of the book is much older. VERY strange.
As rehearsals ramp up, Aurora begins to receive gifts from her secret admirer and her group of girls stop at nothing to find out who the mystery man is. At times this can be a little absurd – one of the girls is the daughter of a cop and that allows her to have access to a fingerprint database..?? All the while it’s completely obvious who the boy is, so the ending will come as no surprise.
While I did enjoy this one, I do have two major issues with this book: every single conversation Aurora and her friends have is about boys. I think one talked about clothes (they needed to find the perfect outfit to get the boys) but any other interaction focuses solely on discovering who Aurora’s secret admirer was, nursing a broken heart, planning how to get the new boy’s attention, how to stop the kiss with Hayden, etc etc. At no point did any of these girls feel comfortable being single. The end game was always to get a boyfriend. The Bechdel test is sent to an early grave here. My other issue was with one friend in particular. Jalena is the girl at school. There aren’t any other girls more popular than their group, but Jalena is clearly Top Dog. Gorgeous, wealthy, all the best clothes, boys falling at her feet. Normally I would roll my eyes and move on, but her entire attitude was grating. Smug and superior and not afraid to let the world know it. Her boyfriend (and what a charmer that guy was ugh) had a role in the play and at one point brutally tore apart his character’s love interest. Instead of defending the girl, Jalena joined in, ruthlessly mocking the girl, saying they should start a collection to help pay for a boob job since that’s clearly the only way she could ever hope to get the attention of a boy in Jalena’s league. And Aurora was best friends with this girl. The only saving grace was that the rest of their group was shocked and embarrassed by Jalena’s behavior. Still, I didn’t care one bit for this character and her redemption at the end felt so phony.
For all my complaining, I actually did enjoy this book and look forward to the sequel! This book had a ton of potential and could have explored Aurora’s family dynamic (divorced parents, her father is very New Age-y, her mother practically forgets she exists) more in depth. There was so much underneath the surface, particularly once her dad starts dating again, and I would have loved to read that story. While I liked How to Stop a Boy from Kissing You enough to read it in a single sitting, it felt very young and the ending was obvious from the very first page. Also, the constant talk of boys and boyfriends left little time for any other topic and I’m sure that will leave many readers disheartened.