By: Leslie Connor
Published By: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Page Count: 368
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
I was expecting The Things You Kiss Goodbye to be a contemporary romance with a few bumps in the road. The description alludes to some tragedy for Bettina, but my theories on what this could be where nowhere near the actual event. This novel was far more serious and depressing than I predicted. For that reason, it took me awhile to get through this one, and there were moments that I had to force myself to keep reading. The Things You Kiss Goodbye is well written and any faults with my experience are solely my own. I just was not in a place where I could appreciate a serious, depressing novel.
Bettina is one of those girls that is typically a fringe character. She doesn't crave the spotlight and she doesn't conform. The attention of handsome basketball superstar, Brady Cullen, pulls her into a world she never wanted to be part of and forces her into social spheres that are foreign territory. Bettina wasn't instantly likable. I had to work at forming a bond with her. By the end, my heart broke right along with hers and I found myself wishing that I could spend more time with her.
The relationship between Bettina and Brady was a difficult one for me, but I was impressed that Connor chose to go in the dysfunctional direction with these two. So often it seems that romance is written like a fairy tale where everything is sunshine and roses. That isn't realistic. Every relationship has its ups and downs. Some relationships are unhealthy. I think teens need to see an abusive, unhealthy relationship in their reading from time to time. Bettina and Brady made me angry. I wanted Bettina to stand up for herself and walk away from Brady's destructive behavior. I also never truly understood why Brady changed. He seemed like a charming, shy guy one minute and a holy terror the next.
Another dynamic that I enjoyed was the one between Bettina and her family. Bettina's parents are extremely strict and expect the family to adhere to specific schedules. I empathized with Bettina when she was trying to find herself and her own space in the world. She had so many conflicts with her parents as a result. There were moments when I felt like her parents, particularly her father, were too hard on her, but then there would be a moment when I could tell that their actions came from a place of love. I adored Bettina's younger brothers; these two helped serve as a little comic relief when the story got a bit too heavy.
Lastly, the relationship between Bettina and Cowboy was a bit awkward for me. Connor does a nice job of writing this connection, but I still couldn't fully buy into it. The age difference was a barrier I had trouble crossing.
In addition to the relationships, Connor also provides a commentary on bullying and double standards. Bettina is called horrible names and harassed once a rumor begins to swirl throughout the school about her while Brady is seen as a hero when his behavior is reprehensible on multiple occasions. I hate seeing female characters become targets for the masses. Sadly, this happens all too often in reality.
Overall, I felt like this one was an important read, but an extremely difficult one. Bettina does not have a life that I would want. So often I read as a means of escape from the daily stresses and strains of reality. This novel did not provide that escape, but it did force me to think about some difficult topics.
One Last Gripe: There were lots of slow moments in this one.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The ending chapters - those sucked me in and helped me understand Bettina
First Sentence: The night I cut off my hair, my mother told my father to leave.
Favorite Character: This is difficult because they were all flawed, but I suppose I'd choose Cowboy.
Least Favorite Character: Brady Cullen
Bettina Vasilis can hardly believe it when basketball star Brady Cullen asks her out, and she just about faints when her strict father actually approves of him.
But when school starts up again, Brady changes. What happened to the sweet boy she fell in love with? Then she meets a smoldering guy in his twenties, and this “cowboy” is everything Brady is not—gentle, caring, and interested in getting to know the real Bettina.
Bettina knows that breaking up with Brady would mean giving up her freedom—and that it would be inappropriate for anything to happen between her and Cowboy. Still, she can’t help that she longs for the scent of his auto shop whenever she’s anywhere else.
When tragedy strikes, Bettina must tell her family the truth—and kiss goodbye the things she thought she knew about herself and the men in her life.
Leslie Connor has written a lyrical, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about family, romance, and the immense power of love.