Initial reaction: You know how I said in one of my status updates that this was a less good version of E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series?
Turns out I wasn’t too far off from that assessment. Except I’d say that this failed miserably with the humor and handling of very similar issues.
I struggled through the progression of this book with probably a few moments where I thought the humor worked, but ultimately, this book was just a miss for what I got out of the experience. Ultimately the read made me very angry in places. It was too juvenile for its intended audience on several levels – in tone, in the way it treated teen relationships and sex even with its focus on chick lit thematics and humor/comedy, among other matters.
Ultimately”Kissing Ted Callihan” deals with teen romance/sex and relationships, though in an intended humorous way. In the story , Riley and Reid create this personal book detailing their preferences, mishaps, stumbles, and journeys with respect to trying to find relationships with their crushes in writing inside that book. In some cases, this can be a cool thing (in premise) and I’ve seen it done well in some of my favorite books like E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series.
Riley is the main female protagonist in this novel and she has a crush on Ted Callihan, but it’s not the only relationship she has despite how much she talks about him to her best friend, Reid. The way that the book presented her relationships was that she crushed on multiple boys (three at the same time) with very little motivation (except for Ted) as to why she kissed them or hung out with them in some ways. Riley herself is a very flighty, over-the-top quirky “rock star” (she’s a musician) who more often than not makes mistakes and missteps in all of the relationships she has. She’s very self-absorbed, shallow, and often judging of the people around her, even those she names as friends. While that might be a part of some of her inherent flaws as a character, the way she came across gave me pause on several occasions, from the over-repetitiveness of her speech (using all caps lock, random tangents that were placed in text throughout the narrative that threw me out of the story, etc) to overemphasizing her love of music and status as a “rock star” when it felt like she was trying to elevate herself to some status of “cool” that the text somehow tried to over justify and repeat when it wasn’t needed (for what reason, I don’t know). Often I felt thrown out of the story because of Riley’s character voice being extremely distracting, overly quirky, and what I felt to be a false portrayal for the character age (she’s 17) and experience.
Reid was the other main character, Riley’s best friend in collaboration on the relationship book. His character arc felt a little more solid than Riley’s and his voice a little more tolerable, though he seemed to be a bit neurotic when it came to his relationships. He crushed on a girl at a local animal shelter and tries ways to get her attention (including showing interest in a disabled dog though he doesn’t show true interest taking care of disabled pets, just wants to get to know the girl better). I had problems with Reid’s motivations, but I followed him still to see how things would progress. Riley and Reid’s banter could be fun in spurts, but often Riley’s callous dismissals of Reid (even sometimes smacking him in the context of slapstick humor) was often brash and superfluous. Likewise, even when seeing the context of their role in their “rock band” – I only felt a loose musical connection – like it was mostly telling me how “cool” or how much meaning it had to the characters without really delving into it. It was background noise and I felt no true connection to it or how it connected to the characters.
Ultimately, when it wasn’t the character voices being too puerile for their ages or over the top for quirks or the “cool” factor, it was the fact that their issues weren’t really expounded upon, instead ceding to instant and overused clichés, to its detriment. Riley’s story arc was resolved far too easily and quickly in the last 20% of the novel, especially when the relationship book (an intimate measure) ends up being lost and risked exposure to the people Riley and Reid were both involved with. Ted Callihan, in himself, was a very flat character compared to some of Riley’s other crushes, and their dialogues (while intentionally awkward) didn’t really endear me to their relationship or make me root for Riley in terms of them being together. Plus for the heavy discomfort the exposure that book’s potential unveiling had, it was far too easily seen as a forgiven measure in Riley’s other relationships (for plot convenience, Ted was the only one who had a problem with it). Riley never felt like she really came to terms with what it meant rather than just being “caught” in the midst of being in an uncommitted relationship (with having sex in one of those measures). The problem with this is that the text never really touched on how important it was for her to let the other people involved in those relationships that she had no strings attached in her approach. Also, that the text seemed to skimp on how much weight, impact, and potential repercussions it may have (especially when the sentiments of the other person in the relationship is ignored or undervalued, in which case Riley did ignore and undervalue their parts of the relationship).
In a narrative sense, this book felt far too underdeveloped, over the top, and mismatched for the audience portrayal in humor and projection for me to get behind it, and I can’t recommend it for that reason. I did not enjoy it, and it was more often grating to read despite few moments where I found the bit humor worked.
Overall score: 1/5 stars.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.