Review: Who I Kissed

Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

She never thought a kiss could kill…
Samantha didn’t mean to hurt anyone. She was just trying to fit in…and she wanted to make Zee a little jealous after he completely ditched her for a prettier girl. So she kissed Alex. And then he died—right in her arms.
Was she really the only person in the entire school who didn’t know about his peanut allergy? Or that eating a peanut butter sandwich and then kissing him would be deadly? Overnight Sam turns into the school pariah and a media sensation explodes. Consumed with guilt, abandoned by her friends, and in jeopardy of losing her swimming scholarship, she’ll have to find a way to forgive herself before anyone else will.

(Description from Goodreads)

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This book dealt with things I was not exactly expecting from a YA novel, hence why I picked it up in the first place. Food allergies and asthma aren’t ideas that are typically seen in a YA novel, but are present in YA lives. The description of the book had me intrigued: can someone actually die if they kiss someone who just ate something that they are allergic to? Even though the answer to that question is not answered in the book (or even in the end section that the author wrote about why she decided to write about food allergies) but it does make you think more about it. Many people have food allergies and asthma; when I was in primary, middle, and high school, I had to fight through having asthma, though thankfully I have grown out of it now (surprisingly it is possible.) This book definitely had me thinking about the importance of being aware of those who may have a condition that surround your life.

As stated in the description, the main character, Sam, kisses a boy named Alex at a party one night to make her crush, Zee, jealous. Well, Sam is then faced with the possibility that because she ate a peanut butter sandwich before she went to the party and then kissed Alex, who was allergic to peanuts, she inadvertently killed him. After the incident, Sam falls into depression and everyone (or at least it seems like everyone) blames her for Alex’s death. The story focuses on how Sam deals with grief and loss and a sort of redemption. Sam was never the type to just randomly kiss someone she didn’t know, but after a rumor followed her from her old school, she felt that kissing Alex was her chance to start over. However, one bad decision can lead to a plethora of consequences.

I love characters. Without characters, there is no story. I felt so sorry for Sam, especially after how everyone started to treat her at school; people would constantly write on her Facebook wall, calling her peanut butter killer. I wish there was a lot more of Alex, but at the same time I’m glad there wasn’t because I would have become way too attached to his character I think. Zee was incredibly realistic, especially his emotions and actions towards the death of his best friend. Sam’s dad and aunt were great supporting characters as well, bringing much thought and light moments to the scenario. Even Frederick, the little Chihuahua, was a wonderful character to provide a break from the seriousness of the situation (and even manages to make my heart stop for a page or two!) There were plenty of other characters too, like Taylor, Chloe, and Casper, but the others stood out to me more.

Sam deals with so many difficult things at once that I’m surprised and impressed with how well she handles everything. From dealing with everyone blaming her for Alex’s death, to her momentarily quitting swimming, to her finding out about who her mother was, and to situations like losing her virginity and feeling numb, Sam really manages everything well in stride. I know if I were her I would have broken down and just become a recluse; she kind of does too, but she manages to pull herself out of the hole she found herself in.

There were a few things I had a problem with though; not a bad problem, just more of a “huh?” or “what?” problem. Sam never really knew much about her mother other than she died in an accident when she was little. However, while all of this other stuff is happening to Sam, she begins to find out about who her mother really was. I just couldn’t quite figure out why there needed to be any more negative thoughts within the story, especially for Sam after she was just blamed for killing a boy. I understand that it was important for Sam to know who she was missing and other things about her mom, but did it really need to come up during all of this? Also, I was surprised that this book didn’t focus more on bringing awareness to peanut allergies and asthma attacks, as the author writes at the end of the book that’s why she wrote it in the first place. Instead, the book focuses on how the “killer” deals with what happened and how she wants to help bring awareness…not so much actually doing it. In a round-a-bout way though, bullying is touched on, but only ever so slightly, as Sam handles it a lot better than those who are bullied do (note: no one should EVER have to deal with bullying. Never ever EVER!) I really wish that there had been some more focus on raising awareness to peanut allergies and asthma, instead of just brushing over it. I definitely wish this book had been longer and perhaps that could have helped it out a bit. Only one portion actually left me confused, and that was who the heck was Theresa and why was there such an odd connection to Casper? The book eventually tells you toward the end, but it still left me going what was the point of her then? Obviously to make Casper out to be the bad guy that he was.

I really liked this book. I would give it 4 stars, but with a few things that bothered me, that’s why I had to give it a 3.5 rating instead. I enjoyed a different YA novel idea; it was definitely a quick and enjoyable read.

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