Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The International Kissing Club by Ivy Adams

Publisher: Walker Children's
Pages: 400
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone

SummaryPiper, Cassidy, Mei, and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. And they've always agreed on one goal: to get out of tiny Paris, Texas, and see the world. The school's foreign exchange program seems like the perfect escape: Piper will go to the original Paris; Mei will go to China; Cassidy will go to Australia; and Izzy, unable to afford the program, will stay at home. To add spice to their semester away, and to stay connected to their best friends, the girls start The International Kissing Club, a Facebook page where they can anonymously update one another and brag about all the amazing guys they're meeting. After all, these girls are traveling abroad: amazing guys abound at every turn! But sometimes fun, flirty vacation flings turn into more serious romances, and sometimes you don't return from abroad the same person you were. Will the girls' relationships-and their friendships-be able to survive?

I was curious about this one--it's a book written from four points of view by three authors under a single pen name. The concept was a little schizophrenic and I wanted to see how it worked out.
Four friends decide that they need to get out of the small town of Paris, Texas to get away from their problems and meet new people that haven't known them and their life stories forever. Piper decides to go to the original Paris in order to escape her status as a youtube star and her alcoholic mother's least favorite child (by the way, she's going to be in therapy for the rest of her life based on the setup in this book). Cassidy is tired of being an assumed slut because she's the daughter of a teen mother. She decides to escape to Australia, finding a long term looooove connection in the process. Mei, an adopted child and the only girl of Chinese descent at Paris High School, wants to reconnect with the culture she has never known. Izzy, whose siblings' needs always overshadow her own, ends up stuck in Texas, working for the family of a football player she supposedly can't stand. In order to keep up with one another's lives, the four create the International Kissing Club, a facebook page they visit under Disney princess pseudonyms, sharing their stories and gaining points for kissing escapades.
The three authors that comprise Ivy Adams do a good job of acting as a single writer, while each of the four girls has their own distinct voice, it appears as if they are written by the same person. The writing is smooth and at no point seems disjointed. I also enjoyed the fact that time does pass in the book--when narration switches from one girl to another, time has elapsed. They don't go through and explain what happens to each girl every week (which would have made the book like a thousand pages too long). Instead, it was a new week and the gaps in each girl's time are filled in on the facebook conversations between chapters and maybe a few words about their most recent memories in their chapter. The way this book was written was cool and different.
Plot-wise, this book had a lot going on. It had to tell each (for lack of a better term) origin story for the girls, create the idea for the club, tell the separate stories of each girl in their respective countries, and close out the whole IKC thing with trouble in school. Some of the girls' stories were rom-coms (Izzy's, Cassidy's) whereas Mei's was more about realizing who she really was, and Piper's ended up being about more pain for her already messed up life (seriously, therapy and trust issues for life). Each story ranged from kind of enjoyable to why am I still reading about this plot point.
I would say that the biggest weakness of this book was the cliche quality of its characters. Cassidy is a sporty athlete that doesn't worry about her appearance and is often told she is a lesbian. Me is the scholastic, overachieving adopted Chinese-American girl. Izzy is the environmentally conscious one that wears recyclable clothes and is an unwavering vegetarian until she is vexed. Piper is the drama queen artist with a shopping obsession. They're all wildly different--and conveniently friends. I don't like when you throw together a bunch of extremely different stereotypes and make them friends--that in itself is a cliche. And very like the Babysitter's Club (have you heard that Kristy is a tomboy? Claudia's an artist that can't spell? Dawn is a health nut that tries to push her Californian health tips on everyone? I still know all of this because it was shoved down the reader's throat in each one of those books).
Overall, I wasn't the biggest fan of The International Kissing Club. However, it's a lighter contemporary read whose characters, regardless of their stereotypical descriptions, ran deeper than I expected them to because of their family attachments. It's written in a cool way, combining multiple points of view and facebook conversations between the points of view switches. Just wasn't the book for me.

Rating: 2.5 - okay.

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