The Things You Kiss Goodbye
by Leslie Connor
Released on: June 24th, 2014
Published by: Katherine Tegen
Rating: 3 stars
Word rating: "Brought to you by Lifetime Network..."
Reviewed by: Blythe
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.
Although it has its shining moments, The Things You Kiss Goodbye was just as soapy as its title had suggested. This, of course, will either mean really good things for your reading experience with it, or really bad things. It meant neither particularly for me, but I do think if would have enjoyed this more had it not relied on some clichés from soap operas revolving around abuse. Also, compared to the several dark contemporary romances I've read recently, The Things You Kiss Goodbye lacked for me genuine emotion, and in the end that was its biggest downfall.
The Things You Kiss Goodbye more or less follows the standard storyline of a Lifetime movie, with an abusive boyfriend, a mysterious older man who helps out our main character, consequential infidelity, and, ultimately, tragedy. It's not a particularly happy novel, and I like that Leslie Connor never tried to pass it off as such, but for me the novel had laid on the verge of sappiness and sincerity, fluctuating between the two throughout the novel. What Connor does really well in The Things You Kiss is portray a toxic relationship and its effects, and also depicting the vulnerability in victims of abuse. The abuse used by Bettina's boyfriend in The Things You Kiss is something I rarely see portrayed well in YA, and that is both physical and emotional, but not all at once. With each little thing Brady does to hurt Bettina both physically and emotionally, Bettina becomes more and more guarded and vulnerable, which I found to be a really poignant and realistic representation of abuse and its effects. The novel shows that every single instance of abuse is damaging, and it doesn't have to be overtly violent, and I think that's an important message to send.
The Things You Kiss Goodbye's biggest fault with me, however, was with its characters. Usually when I have issues with characters it's because I don't like them very much, but that's not exactly the case with The Things You Kiss. For the most part, I really did like the characters in this novel. I enjoyed seeing their relationships develop, and I thought the main romance between Bettina and Cowboy was cute, infidelity aside. (Although Cowboy's age being ten years more than that of Bettina's made me uncomfortable at select moments.) With that having been said, I can't say I fully connected with any main characters in The Things You Kiss Goodbye; I liked the ones I was supposed to like enough, and I cared for Bettina's safety and the relationships throughout the novel were really well drawn, and I was a fan of the friendship that had been built in the novel. But, despite that, the intended emotional impact towards the end didn't affect me as much as I had hoped it would; I recognized what was going on, and felt sad for the characters going through the tragedies, but I didn't feel sad myself, which is ultimately what I'm looking for with contemporaries like The Things You Kiss Goodbye but did not fully find.
One trend I'm really starting to see become more prevalent in YA is the importance of family, so to see a main character whose parents are active in her life was nice. Bettina's father is very strict, and I felt there was more that could have been done with their relationship and its development, but in the end it was a sweet progression. I also really liked Connor's writing style, but it did take me a bit to adjust to how the novel is told, since it's entirely in past tense, which I find a bit jarring at times. The Things You Kiss Goodbye may read like a novelization of a Lifetime movie, but it is still well written, with an exceptionally portrayed toxic relationship. It has a lot of substance, and I'm sure it will appeal to a lot of readers, but it lacked the raw emotion necessary for it to be an outstanding read for me.