105 Ways to Give a Book

TeenReader Tuesday: Never Been Kissed

It begins with a good concept: “What if there were a 16-year-old girl who had never been kissed, but wanted to change that during her junior year? Surely hilarity would ensue!” Certainly I was intrigued by a title that doesn’t support the “kissed at 13” ideal. As part of my tween novel reviews, I’ve noticed a drastic amount of characters getting their first kiss no later than 13, and any who don’t mope about being a “lip virgin.” This is so epidemic that I did not make that phrase up. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT, PEOPLE! “LIP VIRGIN” IS A THING. But yes, there are many smart, pretty girls who are not kissed at 13 years old, and a book that supports this fact has that in its favor.

Never Been KissedYet despite the leading title, Never Been Kissed isn’t a lip-locking quest but a cautionary tale. A girl who’s never been kissed is suddenly facing charges for sexting — in this case sending a nude photo to a boy. But such a photograph was never taken, let alone sent! Elise must find out who is framing her for this awful, awful crime! (Insert filler, blah, blah, blah, sexting sucks, God rocks, depression, lawyers, prom! more sadness). And the culprit is caught! Will Elise ever forgive this girl who has messed up her life? Under one condition: The girl must go to church with her. And...scene.

Did you catch the religious references above? Because the book is full of them. As main character Elise is e-mailing the cute new boy Asher, she decides to write — and I paraphrase slightly here — “I haven’t told you this yet, but I’m a Christian. What’s your religious background?” Yep, nothing turns a guy on more than talking ‘bout Jesus! The rest of the book includes similar religion placement, including Elise’s prom date giving her a picture of Jesus’s hand on the crucifix. Now THAT’S how to get a girl. The next cute Jew I meet is getting a schmear o’ lamb blood!

Now, to be clear, I have no problem whatsoever with the free and complete practice of Christianity, nor with Christian fiction as a genre. But as for the latter, I’d like to see religion incorporated in a well-written way, and I’d like to know that it is Christian fiction. Never Been Kissed isn’t noted as such anywhere but in fine print on the publisher’s page. So imagine my surprise, wondering why religion is playing such a big role in my book about the dangers of sexting. And hello? The “never been kissed” concept was dropped as soon as the drama began, and was hastily tied in again at the end: “And even though I still haven’t been officially kissed, I’m thinking that maybe I need to just wait... What I’m actually saying is that I need to just wait on God. Because I know now that his timing and his ways are a whole lot better than mine!” Not good.

So there you have it, folks. I’m hoping to get back to writing more frequently now that Dracula is over...

MotherReader breaking in: TeenReader — along with her fellow “vixens” — got a Cappies nomination for ensemble! Peer reviews consistently noted the group with thoughts like, “A captivating and chilling ensemble, Brides of Dracula were always just the right touch in every scene, sinister cackles and bone chilling screeches seemed carefully choreographed.” Congratulations!

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8 comments:

tanita davis said...

First, congrats on your Cappie award. Second, sorry this book sucked so badly. Yeesh.

Question, though: does the presences of religious people or people going to temple or whatev make a book religious fiction? Where would you draw the line? -- Obviously, this book drew... er, several lines. But, in a well-written book, what would cross the line from secular to sacred?

Also: I so want to be there the next cute Jew you meet...

Kaitlyn Devin and Grace said...

I agree with you that a book should be advertised as a Christian book. I enjoy Christian Fiction, but I'm annoyed if they try to play it off they aren't and they clearly are:) Anyway, the title made me laugh because I was a "lip virgin" until I was 18 lol. I really don't think it's a big deal, but tweens sure think it is! Great review, thanks for the heads up :)

-Kate the Book Buff
The Book Buff: Book Reviews for Regular People

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian said...

Oh, ugh, like anyone even talks like that! Okay, I have met a few people in church who do speak in platitudes, but usually even their pastors just smile politely and move on. Do the author and publisher really think they are promoting their cause that way? And if they have to use deception to even get it in someone's hands, what does that say?

(And I'm with Tanita - please let us know when we can be there with cameras rolling!)

EM said...

Words cannot express how much I love this review. "'LIP VIRGIN' IS A THING."

aquafortis said...

Hilarious review, and congrats on the award!

I'm not a religious person, but I am mostly okay with religion showing up in a book. However, there's no excuse for it being poorly written or heavy-handed. Or utterly dropping the premise it started with. It doesn't sound like it was meaningful at all--maybe to the author, but it doesn't sound like that's coming across in the book.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Melody Carlson has written a lot of Christian teen fiction, including the "Diary of a Teenage Girl" series. The first one has a similar arc to the book you've reviewed here: it starts with a girl concerned about popularity and a crush, then turns more and more to her growing commitment to religion. Essentially, it is a religious-awakening story, though not really billed as such (at least, not on the copy that I have.) By the end of the story, the main character is publicly announcing that she will remain a virgin until marriage, and the last page of the book includes a virginity pledge for readers to fill out themselves.

MotherReader said...

Teenreader here- Thanks for all the insightful comments! Tanita - I'd say the line between religious and secular fiction lies in the purpose of the book - to entertain or to promote said religion. The fact that one often cannot divine the purpose makes it easier: If you can clearly tell one of the major points is to promote religion, it's a religious fic. If you're hazy, it's probably not. That said, a religious fiction can also be written to entertain, but one should be able to tell that promotion is at least one of the intentions.

Ms. Yingling said...

Carlson is usually too heavy-handed for my library, but I do stock her "colors" series because they address serious issues like anorexia, cutting, etc. Without profanity, and my readers tell me they just skip over the religious part. You're spot on, though, that these should be touted as Christian fiction.