Having read and loved both of Amy Spalding's previous books, my excitement for Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) was pretty high. I love Spalding's humor, her realistically messy characters, and the way she writes relationships of all sorts. Kissing Ted Callahan delivered in all these areas.
Riley has a pretty good life. She's in a band with her best friends and they are actually pretty good with a potential future in the business. She enjoys good music, attends a great school, and has a car and relative freedom. Then Riley and bandmate Reid discover their other two bandmates are having sex. Everything changes for Riley. She is upset that Lucy hadn't told her this was going on when they'd been best friends forever. She feels like she's missing out on life. Riley and Reid then make a pact to help advise and encourage each other in their search for true love, sex, and all things romantic. Riley focuses in on her longtime crush, Ted Callahan, but soon discovers other boys might be more interested in her. Cute boys. Boys who are skilled in the area of kissing. Soon Riley is juggling quite a hectic social life and trying to navigate more complications than just which boy she should be making out with. Especially once the notebook she and Reid are using for their mutual project goes missing.
Riley is hilarious. The book is told in her first person voice and it is exactly like being in someone else's head and getting to hear every horrified, geeky, amused, panic-stricken thought. I love that Riley isn't searching for some magical true love. She's mostly interested in gaining sexual experience. Reid is the one that is determined to find love (though sex is a definite plus in that for him). And I loved this realistic look at how girls and boys actually see relationships quite similarly and aren't really looking for that different a thing. It's not all about boys wanting sex and girls wanting love. People want sex. People want love. Often times they want both things at once. Sometimes it's one or the other. Everyone has different motivations in relationships, and those motivations change all the time. Riley's adventures in romance demonstrate this so well. They also show how easy it is to hurt the people closest to you when you aren't communicating in the best of ways. Riley does some incredibly immature things, but they are exactly the sort of mistakes a young 16 year old would make. Heck, some adults aren't any better at relationships than she is. But I love that she seems willing to learn and internalize and make things better. And get lots of great kissing in while she's at it.
This is a book all about relationships. Riley has a very different relationship with all three guys she's hanging out with. They all progress differently and at different paces. I was kind of unsure for most of the book about which guy, if any, was going to win her over. That was kind of nice as I felt even more in Riley's head. Friendship is also an important aspect of the book. Riley and Reid are a great example of a girl/boy friendship with no romance at all and how that works. Riley's relationship with Lucy is really well done as well. Riley basically torpedoes their friendship when she finds out about Lucy dating Nathan. It's for purely selfish reasons including jealousy, but she is also hurt and insecure. I felt for Lucy through a lot of this book, but felt both girls behave and react in realistic ways. The resolution to that was really worthwhile too.
As Riley and Reid (particularly Reid) share more of their plans and thoughts in the book it becomes increasingly worrying because OF COURSE the book is going to go missing. And this isn't just a silly dramatic cliche' to move a plot along. Do you know how many times my kids do something that ends up devastating them and I have to say, "How did you expect that to turn out? Of course this would happen"??? Do you know how many times I've said it to myself???? I really appreciated that there was a lot less drama to the book going missing than there could have been though, and I loved how that plot thread resolved. Riley and Reid both did some maturing, growing, and learning, but not in a way that was teaching a LESSON. It was organic to the story and their characters.
This is a great read for people who love lighthearted meaningful YA with a dash of romance and a lot of heart.
For Readers Concerned About Content: some language; underage drinking; making out and sex scenes (not graphically detailed)
I read an ARC provided by the publisher, Little Brown, via Edelweiss. Kissing Ted Callahan is on sale April 7th.