book review: my last kiss, bethany neal

18465608 book review: my last kiss, bethany nealTitle: My Last Kiss
Author: Bethany Neal
Category: Young Adult, Fiction
Publisher: Will publish June 10, 2014; Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Starred Review: 3 stars

I have a lot of mixed feelings and reactions to My Last Kiss. Overall, I liked the book and the story and many of the characters. It’s a mystery, and a fantastical one at that, seeing as our narrator is dead. That was the hook that drew me into the story, and it’s also what kept me there.

I tend not to read mysteries. I don’t like the feeling of being intentionally kept in the dark. I’m not saying that all mysteries do this, but they lend themselves to doing this. Whether in narration, in form, in investigation. That’s always hard for me, especially when it’s in a novel’s form, in how the story is told, mostly because it’s written to fit, rather than a narrator that drives me crazy because it’s clear information is being withheld. In My Last Kiss, it’s a mixture of both, but it was workable, even if it was frustrating.

Cassidy is dead. She’s narrating to us from the dead, from this weird in-between. It’s an in-between, where she’s in the present, can see the present as it unfolds, and she also visualizes moments from her life. All these moments are moments that lead up to and clue into her death. Because here’s the thing: she doesn’t know how she died. The events leading up to it are a blur, and she doesn’t know what to believe, or who.

One interesting thing about the book is that even though Cassidy is dead, there’s one person who can see her — her boyfriend Ethan. He sees her. I’m still unsure what the point of that was, except to move forward the plot in its present. She would still continue to go back and relive important moments either way. Still, some of the Ethan-Cassidy moments when he was the only one who could see her were my favorite moments. It gave an interesting insight into their relationship and into who Cassidy was. Everything that happened in the novel was an interesting way of learning about who a character was, what she knew, and what she didn’t know.

The reason I have such mixed thoughts is because of the way the story unfolded. As I said about other mysteries, I don’t like feeling like things are withheld. Or things being given out in a slow way. Because Cassidy doesn’t know what happened to her, because that night is a blur, the timeline isn’t coherent. We jump around. Cassidy’s journey is broken, and she’s trying to put it back together. It’s done well. It’s written well. But it was super frustrating to me. Personal preference though.

Overall, though, I like that it was different. I liked the characters, even if they aren’t the type of people I would be friends with, might not even like in real life. But they’re interesting and rounded. Cassidy, even though she’s dead, changes from start to finish. I prefer that to static narrators/heroes. It’s a fun twist on the murder mystery, especial in YA. If you’re looking for something a bit different, something dramatic and intriguing, something with more than a little bit of mystery, then My Last Kiss is right up your alley.

By the by, I read a NetGalley copy, in advance.

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