Friday, May 09, 2014

Review: My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal

Title: My Last Kiss
Author: Bethany Neal
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release date: June 10th 2014
Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult mystery, romance
Source: NetGalley - I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss—the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died—is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn’t a suicide as everyone assumes. She can’t remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she’s worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend. If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she’ll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made—good and bad—that led to her last kiss. 
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars 

I love the premise for My Last Kiss; it sounded mysterious and intriguing, so I was really excited to read it. Sadly, though, I ended up having a lot of issues with the novel, and I just couldn't connect with the story, making My Last Kiss a disappointing read for me.

I never really connected with any of the characters. Cassidy bothered me from the beginning on: she's selfish, whiny, and keeps blaming others for the mistakes she's made. Other than those qualities, I don't feel like we ever really got to know her - I really know nothing about the person she was before she died, her personality or her interests. The other characters aren't any better. Madison had some potential, and I would have liked to understand her motivations more, but her struggles are very underdeveloped: to me, there wasn't really any point to finding out what she's been going through when we see no further development of it over the course of the novel. The portrayal of Caleb's character also bothered me: he's reduced to being a pothead - which, according to the other characters in the novel, makes him a horrible person - and we find out nothing about his background or personality. All the characters just seemed very underdeveloped, which made both the mystery and the relationships in this novel kind of weak.

The first half of the novel is, in a word, boring. I debated DNFing for a loong time, because the story just didn't seem to be going anywhere. The first half really just consists of Cassidy watching over Ethan and her friend Aimee trying to figure out what really happened to her, but it didn't seem to really have a point and the story didn't seem to be moving forward. It also bothered me how Cassidy's existence as a ghost that no one but Ethan can see is just sort of assumed. Yes, Cassidy repeatedly talks about how weird it is to be a ghost, to be able to walk through walls, etc., but the deeper meaning behind it is never really addressed. Ethan never really seems to think it's weird that he can talk to his dead girlfriend, and they never seem to wonder why she's still on this earth. (Until the very end, when we get the cheesy, cliched explanation.) Ethan's and Cassidy's relationship bothered me in general: after her death, their relationship is idealized and everything is fine between them, when the issues they had before Cassidy died are what started all of this in the first place.

The second half of the novel is definitely more interesting than the first. The resolution at the end is surprising - I hadn't guessed who the killer was - so I guess that's something the story has going for it. But I still didn't really like it; the reason I didn't guess the killer's identity is not that the author concealed it so well, but rather that none of the suspects are properly developed. I didn't really buy into the complicated story of what happened to Cassidy because we didn't get enough of a backstory or character development for it to work. It didn't seem like a real solving of the mystery, but rather just a ton of drama within the last 30 pages, drama that could have been spread over the course of the novel to make the first half less boring and the second half less melodramatic.

Despite its great potential, I just couldn't get myself to like this novel. With underdeveloped, annoying characters, a boring, pointless first half, and a melodramatic, unjustified solution to the mystery, My Last Kiss really was just disappointing all around, for me.


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