The Things You Kiss Goodbye
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, YA
Publication date: June 24th 2014
by Katherine Tegen Books
Bettina Vasilis can hardly believe it when basketball star Brady Cullen asks her out, and she just about faints when her strict father actually approves of him.
But when school starts up again, Brady changes. What happened to the sweet boy she fell in love with? Then she meets a smoldering guy in his twenties, and this “cowboy” is everything Brady is not—gentle, caring, and interested in getting to know the real Bettina.
Bettina knows that breaking up with Brady would mean giving up her freedom—and that it would be inappropriate for anything to happen between her and Cowboy. Still, she can’t help that she longs for the scent of his auto shop whenever she’s anywhere else.
When tragedy strikes, Bettina must tell her family the truth—and kiss goodbye the things she thought she knew about herself and the men in her life.
Leslie Connor has written a lyrical, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about family, romance, and the immense power of love.
-A copy was provided by HarperCollins for review-
In a sea of YA that is constantly flooded with absent parents it’s nice to find a novel that is the complete antithesis of this. The Things You Kiss Goodbye has an interesting family dynamic for this genre in that the parents are very present and we see the repercussions a life of strict rules can have on a teenager. It also is much more than just being about a family, it has romance, unhealthy relationships and even forbidden ones. Though I didn’t fall head over heels for this one as I had hoped I would, there was so much that I enjoyed about it and that will have me thinking about this story for a long time to come.
Bettina Vasilis has grown up under strict rules from her “Bampas” (Greek for father.) He is a man who doesn’t like to be inconvenienced and who likes everyday to go according to a set routine. We see right from the very first page that this way of living has set Bettina on a path of sneaking out and doing things on the sly. As someone who reads a lot of YA novels I found it very interesting that the family in this one was portrayed the way that it was. For me, it showed that being strict like that doesn’t always work out the way one would hope it would. If Bettina had more freedom in her life she wouldn’t have felt the need to sneak out her window or lie about where she was going. As a mother it made me think about things because I feel that the way Bettina acted while under the iron rule of her father was very true to how a teenager would act out in the same situation in real life.
Bettina finally found a way to get some freedom in the form of Brady Cullen. She had a crush on him but as soon as she realized that her Bampas approved of this boy she was in it for the long haul. Things started out very sweet between the two of them but they quickly went sour. This relationship went into very unhealthy territory and it was frustrating to see Bettina stay with him. Because of the life that she knew she would have to go back to living if she were to break up with Brady she stayed with him when she definitely should not have. The slow build of the terrible things that happen between these two was well done and even though it frustrated me I understood Bettina’s motivation to stay with Brady. All of this sounds pretty dark and unhappy for Bettina so far but she does find happiness in the form of a chance encounter with an older man she comes to call Cowboy.
Here the story kind of shifts from a tale about toxic relationships to one about forbidden ones. Things with Cowboy grow quite slowly and this is where the novel kind of started to lose my interest. In the middle, as things are growing between Bettina and Cowboy, the pace really slowed down for me. I did like seeing the moments between these two but it kind of just shifted everything. For pretty much all of the middle chunk of the novel it was like Brady was forgotten and there would be moments where Bettina would think of him and confirm they were still together. I think there should have been a better blend of Bettina’s time in the middle here because it came across feeling a little disjointed for me. Things with Cowboy end up taking a very unexpected turn that took me completely by surprise and I think it was a bold choice for Connor to make this decision. But alas, I can’t get into that, you have to just read it for yourself to find out!
The Things You Kiss Goodbye has a lot going for it and it is definitely a memorable read. I loved seeing the Greek culture, the portrayal of family and exploring the relationships along with Bettina. Though it felt a bit disjointed at times I think this one is definitely worth the read.