Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Who I Kissed - Janet Gurtler

Who I Kissed Janet Gurtler book cover
Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Source/Format: BEA 2012 || ARC
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the opinions expressed in my review.]

Who knew a kiss could kill? When a boy dies just after she kisses him, and the blame is placed on her eating the peanut butter sandwich that triggered his allergic reaction, Sam becomes a school pariah and a media sensation. She struggles with her grief and her guilt as she tries to put the pieces of her life back together, and figure out how to move on, let go and forgive herself for the tragic death she's now associated with.

It's interesting, really, to observe how the choices we make not only affect us, but affect the people around us. Whether for better or worse, once we decide upon a course of action, there's rarely a chance for us to turn back. Samantha discovers the truth of this firsthand in Who I Kissed. While the specific details (a peanut butter sandwich, a deadly allergy, a kiss) are unique to her situation, it is certainly something to which my initial generalization can be applied - she chose to do something and then suffered through the consequences after.

Who knew that a kiss could kill? I certainly didn't realize the implications of severe allergic reactions, especially when it came to associating it with a kiss. I have allergies myself, and while mine are not nearly as severe as Alex's, I do have a strong reaction to certain foods (crab, I'm looking at you). I know how tight the throat gets and how hard it can be to breathe, and so this all played out fairly plausibly to me. One of the book's biggest appeals to me was the fact that it focused on allergies, and specifically how they could severely impact a person if not handled with care or properly treated. Though that only plays a significant role in the very first part, I still think it was a great way to bring attention to the risks certain things pose for kids with allergies.

But the book is not just about the kissing incident. No, it's actually more about our main character Samantha and how she learns to deal with this impossibly horrible situation she's made to face. It is not a fun position to be in, as she has to learn to deal with guilt, grief and the haunting notion of what if. I was surprised at how deeply she felt the entire thing, but then I realized how it basically made her a pariah at her school, and even in the town where Alex had grown up and everyone loved him. It must have been a difficult place to be in, where nearly everyone blames you for a death that was an accident and where you don't have anyone on your side since you just moved. However, I thought their treatment of her was also unfair considering she was new and couldn't have known about Alex's allergy problem.

It is quite a melancholy journey that Samantha goes through. Her guilt and grief and shame causes her to withdraw into herself, and push all that she loves - her father, her swimming, her swim team - away. It hurt to watch her just break ties with all the things that made her who she was, and become this forgettable, withdrawn person. It was a long time before she started to open up again, but as she did, she slowly started getting back on her feet. It started with acceptance of what had happened, and gradually grew into empowerment to do something to prevent it from happening again.

While Samantha isn't one of my favorite characters in YA, I do appreciate the growth she experienced by overcoming this incident in her life. It was what kept me reading, and I'm glad I did. Though the book ended in a manner that I found particularly typical (and far too neat), I'm happy to have shared this journey with her. It's a pretty interesting one, though it's mostly sad and frustrating.

I will say, however, that I did like the support she received from one of her friends on the swim team, as well as her counselor/therapist, her swim coach, her aunt and even her father. Though none of these people were by any means perfect when it came to dealing with her, I could appreciate the fact that they all made an effort to ease her pain.

I did have my qualms with Who I Kissed, but overall, I thought it was a pretty good YA novel. It's got a powerful message about the consequences of your choices, as well as shedding light on the issue of allergies, especially incredibly severe ones.

18 comments:

  1. Thanks for the honest review. It sounds interesting, but I don't know if I'd like the main character. Samantha sounds like a handful, lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She did drive me a little bit crazy, but I tried to put myself in her shoes and that helped me sympathize more. I wanted to shake her out of her funk though!

      Delete
  2. I'm reading this soon and I don't think I knew what it was about. Very interesting....

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have a copy of this one, too, and I'm very much wanting to read it. I am curious to see how I connect with Samantha... if I do. Such a big part of me is a people pleaser so having someone (or a whole town) turn on me would have serious repercussions for me. Especially when it seems she was pretty innocent. I wouldn't know if a boy had a peanut allergy. I mean, that's such a random thing and I'm sure most people don't ask that before kissing someone!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, right? The premise is a wee bit far-fetched, but it does spark some interesting questions.

      And as for being a people pleaser, me too. I think I would totally freak out over this and try to find a way to "redeem" myself!

      Delete
  4. Hm! I'm glad that although the premise seems a bit out there, it was done with plausibility. I'm not sure if I would like Samantha but I'm glad she grows. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I liked this one, too! I had issues with it as well, though mine were mostly about the fact that Alex never seemed to be blamed at all for HIS actions when he kissed Samantha. But, I still look forward to reading more Janet Gurtler.

    Great review, Alexa!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That actually never occurred to me, but that also makes sense - Alex should know better too!

      Delete
  6. I've heard about this one but had no idea what it was about. That would be HORRIBLE to have that happen -- definitely a unique premise! Do you think I'd like this one?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you might find the premise interesting, but you can hold off on reading this one for a while.

      Delete
  7. WOW! How did she come up with this concept? I know people that have big time shellfish allergies & I'm aware of the great lengths schools have gone to rid schools of peanuts (breaks my heart) BUT kill someone off with a PB kiss. WOW! Gurtler takes some wild chances in her books though.

    Thanks for being honest about how you felt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of her kids has allergies, I believe. Isn't it such a unique premise?

      Delete
  8. This premise sounds so good and kind of shocking O_O But I'm not sure how I would react to this Samantha chick, but I can appreciate that she grew throughout her story and that might be ok. Great review, muffin! I'll have to add this on my to read shelf! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sam is either a character that you're going to like or dislike. She evoked very strong emotions while I was reading!

      Delete
  9. This is a pretty shocking book but what a great premise. I think it instantly makes you sympathetic to the main character.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great review! You very clearly explained what you liked about the book, and what you weren't quite as enamored of, which was definitely helpful.

    I wonder if this book gets a little too preachy/cautionary? I'm not sure if I could handle that. Also, just from reading your review I'm frustrated about Sam's apparent treatment. Shouldn't Alex have been the responsible one here? If you have an allergy that severe, I should think you'd double-think everything you could do that could possibly trigger a reaction. Nevertheless, as you mentioned, bringing severe allergies to the public attention is a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Amanda! Hmm... There are bits that sort of feed you information about severe allergies and their consequences. But it's not too preachy!

      Delete

Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...