Title: Kissing Max Holden
Author: Katy Upperman
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publish Date: August 1, 2017
My Rating: ★★★☆.8
Kissing Max Holden was a terrible idea…
After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help him, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.
With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?
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I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I’m always wary when it comes to the friends-turning-into-something-more troupe because they leave me with a bittersweet taste and I’m usually left feeling more conflicted than satisfied at the end. This book, however, wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Some aspects of the story I had issues with (all the cheating) while the other parts (sweet moments, family dynamics, friendships, etc.) helped lessen the bad taste the former left behind and helped me enjoy the story for the cute romantic contemporary that it is.
“Kissing Max Holden” is a character-driven story that is told in Jillian’s point of view and I found her voice to be really easy to follow, engaging, and genuine. Realistically flawed, she felt like a real teenager who I could have easily known back in high school. I always appreciate it when the main characters actually act like the teenagers that they are. I also enjoyed Katy’s writing style: simple without oversimplifying the narration, fun and easy to follow, with great pacing and flow to the story.
I wanted to like Max, I really did, but it frustrated and drove me absolutely insane every time he initiated a kiss, or even hinted at having more-than-platonic feelings for Jillian, when he still had a girlfriend. Maybe I have less patience for that kind of thing than Jillian, but it irritated me so much that Max wouldn’t just break up with his girlfriend when he was so clearly unhappy with her that he would resort to cheating on her with his childhood friend, thus involving her in his mess as well. Unfortunately, there were very few moments were I actually found him to be endearing and a likable character because the majority of the time he was a short-tempered, reckless asshole. Sure, I felt sympathy for him when it came to his father’s condition, but that was no excuse for him acting out the way he did, and especially not for cheating. At his best, however, Max is passionate and loves fiercely, and strives to become a better version of himself.
Jill, on the other hand, I adored right away despite her flaws. Although I still think it’s awful that she essentially became the Other Woman, I found that her other qualities mostly redeemed her. I love how passionate she was about baking and admire her dream of turning that passion into her future career. Every time she baked I found myself craving to taste whatever it was she had made! I’m not even exaggerating when I say this book gave me serious munchies. She’s strong and a hard-worker, and acted very mature and patient for her age. I often found myself wondering where she found the patience to deal with Max when he was acting out and being awful. I really enjoyed seeing Jill’s character development throughout the story, which was conveyed exceptionally well with her feelings of becoming an older sister, her changing relationship with her stepmother and father, as well as her quickly evolving relationship with Max.
I wish there were more first-hand recounts of Jillian and Max when they were younger, before the distance between them started. There were times that Jillian mentioned a random memory of her and Max as children, but I feel like the way she talked about it felt hallow and didn’t really help convince me of their deep bond that was forged as children. Maybe if there had actually been dialogue between them as kids I would have felt their connection more rather than just having a simple summary of what happened when they were little. Though a scene later on in the story kind of made up for it, where Max talked about knowing so many of Jill’s little quirks, things that people would only know if they spent many years growing up together.
Overall, despite my several issues with certain aspects of the plot, I still really did enjoy reading this book and would definitely recommend it to fans of contemporary romance. Sweet and semi-swoonworthy, deeply heartfelt family drama, character-driven plot, and a generous spoonful of teenage angst, “Kissing Max Holden” is a light and fun summer read that YA contemporary fans should check out!
Katy Upperman is a graduate of Washington State University, a former elementary school teacher, and an insatiable reader. When not writing for young adults, Katy can be found whipping up batches of chocolate chip cookies, or exploring the country with her husband and daughter. Kissing Max Holden is her debut novel.
Print copy of Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman
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