Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: THE LAST BEST KISS by Claire LaZebnik

Title: The Last Best Kiss
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Publication date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

Anna Eliot is tired of worrying about what other people think. After all, that was how she lost the only guy she ever really liked, Finn Westbrook.

Now, three years after she broke his heart, the one who got away is back in her life.

All Anna wants is a chance to relive their last kiss again (and again and again). But Finn obviously hasn’t forgotten how she treated him, and he’s made it clear he has no interest in having anything to do with her.

Anna keeps trying to persuade herself that she doesn’t care about Finn either, but even though they’ve both changed since they first met, deep down she knows he’s the guy for her. Now if only she can get him to believe that, too....

With her signature wit and expertly authentic teen voice, Claire LaZebnik (the author of fan favorites Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting) once again breathes new life into a perennially popular love story. Fans of Polly Shulman, Maureen Johnson, and, of course, Jane Austen will love this irresistibly funny and romantic tale of first loves and second chances.


Review:

First line: On nights when I'm honest with myself, I can admit that Finn Westbrook was the best thing about my ninth grade year.

I always liked the original Persuasion storyline because there's so much chemistry involved. Girl and boy like each other, girl's family disapproves, girl stupidly listens to family so she breaks things off with boy. Then boy comes back, boy is all "look at me now," flirts with others, and girl is emotionally tormented. Finally, boy and girl share moments, and reunite. Some people might be annoyed at the sound of so much going back and forth, but for me, there's chemistry to make it all come together and sizzling tension. Oh, lovely chemistry. I thought LaZebnik made this her own in quite a few areas, which I appreciated, but there was still sweet chemistry between the two characters.


Anna and Finn became quick friends through her sister's carpooling when they were younger. Because Anna was apart of the popular group (and Finn was most definitely not), they hung out only outside of school. I felt like there was quite a lot of telling and not showing in this beginning part, but strangely, I didn't care. I loved getting to know cute, geeky Finn and insecure Anna. Anna's narration perfectly showed how conflicted she was. She knew that Finn deserved better than how she was treating him, but like most preteen girls, she cared about what her friends would think of her. As we all know, she ends up breaking his heart because of her friends. However, I could clearly see she wasn't all the way in denial. She might make an excuse here and there about keeping him in secret, but she wasn't in denial that it was wrong. That's how you make a character redeemable in my eyes.

Years later, Finn comes back very grown up. Grown up as in hello, hot stuff. Anna's friends (the same ones she broke Finn's heart for) are immediately taken in by him (to their credit, they didn't know Anna had a thing for him) and he joins their group. While he snubs Anna, you just know they still have a spark between them. You can't deny it, Finn, you just can't. Enter the tension. Really, unlike most YA novels, they don't have many "moments," but you can see that the past is still very present between them and that old feelings haven't died.


I liked Finn. I liked Anna. I did NOT like Lily or Lucy. Honestly, I was confused by all the many characters added in, but Lily and Lucy stole the show in this book, mainly in the annoyance department. Both of them had their faults; Lucy with her insane obsession over perfection and Lily with her strangle-worthy way of being "look at me!" While I connected with Anna throughout the book, when it came to her friends, we clearly were not alike. Too. Much. Lily was a hot mess, Lucy was close to being one, and I could have done without all of that.

LaZebnik drew parallels between Anna's sister Molly and Anna's current situation, also making the story her own. While Finn/Lily's subplot wasn't a favorite of mine, Molly's was. She added likability into Anna's twisted family and able to coincidentally show Anna right and wrong in the confusing mess. I do think Anna's father's sublot could've been ditched. That was one point where I felt as if LaZebnik added an element to the story just for the sake of staying close to Persuasion. Also, ew.

I reviewed Epic Fail back in the summer of 2013 and while I really enjoyed that Jane Austen retelling, I'm relieved to say that I think I might like this latest LaZebnik novel a little bit better.

Verdict: A fresh retelling on one of my favorite plots, solidifying my love for Claire LaZebnik.

Note: All quotes are taken from an ARC and may be changed at publication.

17 comments:

  1. I'm glad to hear good things! I'm preordering it today, since my mom is letting me read it for a British lit project (comparing a couple of Jane Austen's originals to their retellings).

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  2. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this one. Haha! Hello, hot stuff haha. I'm glad you found the MC redeemable. Ah, well.. It's hard to write a book where you love every character so I guess.. just try not to think too much about Lily or Lucy lol. Great review, Summer :)

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  3. I'm glad to read you enjoyed this book! I have never read Persuasion (I have never read any Austen... *blushes* I'm hoping to fix that this year!), but this book looks like a fun read and I'm looking forward to reading it! :)

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    1. No judgement here, I've only read P&P, but I've seen the movies ;)

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  4. I really liked this one too. Lily was super-annoying but I liked that she was because it worked for her role in the novel. And I felt Finn was more likeable overall than Wentworth is in the original.

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  5. I just added this to my TBR list after reading your review! I think it's cool that it's a Persuasion retelling, and what you wrote about Anna and Finn made me want to read it. :)

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

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  6. Aw, this sounds adorable. As I was reading the synopsis, I was really hoping your review would hold good news. I'm definitely adding this.

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  7. Ack I totally forgot that I had a copy of this book still to read :( So thank you so much for reminding me, also I'm a huge fan of when two characters are close together, but then one ends up leaving and returning years later! I think that this book would really work for me, so I really can't wait to start it! Lovely review Summer, I'm glad that you were able to enjoy this book a little bit more than Lazebnik's last one!

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    1. Thanks, Jasprit! I really like that kind of plot as well, it's a bit like slow-burn romance, which I ADORE :)

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  8. This sounds interesting - I've never read any of the original Jane Austen novels, but I love retellings of them. (Probably a sign that I should read them, LOL.) Finn and Anna sound adorable, and who knows - I might like the subtle tension. (Well, maybe not so subtle but you can guess what I'm saying.) Awesome review, Summer! :)

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    1. I haven't either, except for P&P, just the movies and retellings, both of which I love.

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  9. This book sounds so cute, and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it! I love the idea of the characters meeting when they were younger, being torn apart, and falling back in love as teenagers. This isn't something I would normally pick up - it sounds a little too similar to the original story - but your review is tempting me to add it to my to-read list. *mentally debates*

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