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The Last Best Kiss Kindle Edition
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For me, that opening was spectacular. We've all been inside some situation where we are torn between being our real self and being the person we think we're supposed to be.
With a wonderful page-turning plot, LaZebnik takes a group of fascinating, smart kids who live in a fabulous world full of limos and wealthy (but difficult) parents, and shows how all the friends face peer-pressure. Even the adults in the novel seem real and have to make hard choices about learning how to be their real selves or living a false life.
I found all the characters very real and interesting, and I think the love story and friendship between Finn and Anna was gripping. Best of all, I loved the EVERYONE in the novel is a real character trying to make hard choices about becoming themselves. I found myself staying up late, gripped and even scared for the characters at times because the novel keeps building with drama and when the characters arrive at a rock festival, you just KNOW things are going to explode. And LaZebnik is masterful at keeping us reading.
The dialogue is real and funny. The characters seem like people you could meet at your high school. The plot is great. This is a terrific read but it's also one of those books that stays with you and makes you think about who YOU are and who you want to BECOME. I love how as you read the book, you find yourself swept up in the lives and romance, and when you finish it, you want to become a person who is more genuine, who thinks for yourself, who faces your own dreams and moves toward them with power and confidence.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves a great story and to anyone who wants a novel that stays with you and kind of urges you to be your best, most interesting self.
The story begins with a prologue that is almost painful to read. Anna and Finn are great friends who become more than friends. Anna is super popular and "going places" as she heads into high school. Finn is adorable but a total geek. He wears weird clothes that don't quite fit. He isn't as wealthy as most of the kids at this school. He is interested in science facts. He is scrawny and unathletic. Still, Anna loves spending time with him and doesn't mind being his girlfriend ... as long as no one knows about it. A high school dance happens. Finn decides that their relationship should be a bit more public, and so Anna, in a typical self-motivated egotistical high school freshman girl way, publicly humiliates him by running away from him when he asks her to dance. Thus ends the freshman relationship of Anna and Finn.
Oh how hard it was to read this prologue! Anna was awful, simply awful! I felt so, so bad for Finn. Does this happen in high schools around the country? Oh yeah. And that is what makes it so horrible to read. Girls can be so catty and mean, all in the name of popularity. I know boys do it too, but either way, it is excruciating to read about it. How can I root for Anna as a character after that introduction to her short sighted and horrible treatment of one less fortunate than her, especially when she really, really liked the guy? Her reputation meant more to her than anything else. Ugh!
This was a situation, however, where knowing the source of this story, Persuasion, actually helped me keep reading. If I didn't know the original story I would have given up on Anna right away and stopped reading this book. I would have hated it. But I knew that Anna was going to learn from this horrible situation. She was going to become a better person ... eventually. And Finn was going to rise above everything that happened to him. Finn returns for their senior year of high school after being gone for two and half years. The new Finn is confident, secure, and, as is mentioned over and over again, super cute. Now everyone wants to date Finn, including Anna. But Finn isn't so quick to forgive Anna's original actions toward him. He seems to be drawn to her impulsive friend, Lily. Anna is a changed girl. She wants Finn to see this, but he won't give her much consideration at all. This is a story about second chances and opportunities to correct the selfish and harmful decisions of our past.
It is a sweet story. I think that it could have been a much deeper story that really explored some of the motivations and struggles that cause people to treat others harshly in order to stay popular. But, like the other two Claire LaZebnik books I have read, this story stays right on the surface of the issues. It isn't a deep book. I never felt particularly invested in any of the characters. Anna drove me crazy at times, and that is a bit of a problem when she is the first person narrator of the story. I liked Finn, but I really hated the lack of communication that permeates this story. For goodness sake, just say what in the heck you mean to the people you care about. Why these elaborate plans to "get back" at each other or manipulate each other to do or feel a certain way? I know that in reality this happens way too much. I just don't care to read about it. And some of the choices of these teens regarding drug and alcohol use really, really bugged me. Not the best examples for youth to follow.
Having said all that ... I am still a big fan of Claire LaZebnik's modern takes on Jane Austen's stories. I will always continue to buy her books because they are enjoyable to me, even when I have some issues with the characters and situations I find in them. This is still a book that is a quick read which kept me turning pages to see what happens next. I read it in a little more than a day. I enjoyed it and was super happy with the happy ending that took place. It follows the story line of Persuasion pretty faithfully, so, like I say, if you loved that story I think that you will find much to like in this modern day retelling. For me, as a person who didn't love Jane Austen's original story, I could only say that I liked this one. Three stars.