Review Blog

Feb 12 2013

How to keep a boy from kissing you by Tara Eglington

cover image

HarperCollins Australia, 2013.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. I really hope this book finds its way into teenagers' hands. It's the right blend of humour and drama, friendship and family, with a great dollop of romance. The narrator Aurora Skye is a loud and brash 16 year old. She has a flair for the dramatic, is intent on becoming a bestselling author, and has already started a book - it's all about helping girls to find their true prince.
Aurora's four best friends are all distinct personalities, flaws and all, and she knows each of them very well. It would be easy to say Aurora should mind her own business, but it is clear her intentions are always noble and she actually does know best. At times, as she runs herself ragged trying to keep her friends' relationships on track, I wanted to shake her and tell her to slow down and think of herself, but it takes a long time before she does.
Aurora's own love life leaves a lot to be desired, but as with everything that happens to her, she does not get depressed, or give up. She keeps an optimistic attitude and keeps putting herself out there. At times, this is a bit wince-worthy since she often gets into embarrassing situations. But they are also extremely funny situations, and she's such a good sport. Her narrative voice is both snarky and clever, and it ensures the plot keeps moving - more than that - it keeps twisting and turning which nicely reflects the use of Shakespeare's play, Much Ado About Nothing as the school production.
Of course, there are many deceptions, miscommunications, secret admirers, big displays of affection and confrontations, and lots of laughing. In particular, I snorted constantly through the scenes with Miss Deforest's interpretative dance classes. Aurora's derisive comments and actions are hysterically depicted.
It might seem like a light and frothy tale, however, there is more. As the story progresses, and Aurora's family life emerges, we slowly see the truth, and if her final break down and acceptance is depicted in a slightly melodramatic way, I went with it because here is a girl who has never successfully dealt with her unsympathetic mother, and if she behaves like a 12 year old, well, I forgave her.
The boys are also well developed, especially Hayden, who as the potential love interest is caring, honest, and big hearted. We can see his attempts to protect and support Aurora, although she is completely oblivious. He is the perfect (yes, alright, and predictable) boy-next-door. His banter with Aurora is witty and charged with sparks. I loved their interactions.
This is a great book probably predominately targeted at teenage girls. But if you know of boys who like books such as Doug Macleod's Siggy and Amber, or John Green's An Abundance of Katherines, let them try this. Themes include family separation, romance, friendship, and identity. Highly recommended. Great to see a new voice in Australian YA.
Trisha Buckley

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