Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Review: The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor

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I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie ConnorThe Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 24th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, YA
Source: HarperCollins
Buy on Amazon

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.

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.


3.5 Hot Espressos

24 Responses to “Review: The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    This seems to tackle a lot of themes in a positive way. I dismissed the book initially, but I think I’m going to give it a shot now. I like how the family plays a huge role and I’m actually glad the author tackled a toxic relationship in this book.
    I’m curious about the Cowboy. Is he a love interest? You mention that he’s an older man, so that’s a bit concerning!
    Great review, Jenni! 🙂

    • Jenni

      He does become a love interest, looking back I don’t know if we ever get told his exact age, just that he is older. It was definitely an interesting take on forbidden romance.

  2. Jen @ YA Romantics

    This book was just too bleak for me. The abuse stuff was really hard to read, I thought Bettina’s father crossed the line from strict to controlling, and I’m pretty sure that toward the end of the book we’re told that Cowboy is twenty-six, which was also a little creepy to me…
    But I always love reading reviews with a completely different take than mine, so thanks 🙂
    Jen @ YA Romantics

    • Jenni

      I think you’re totally right about Bettina’s father being controlling, he was. I appreciated the way it was done though because there are families out there like that. Yeah the 26 thing does sound right. But once again, I appreciated how it was done the forbidden romance was handled. Maybe I could connect with it a bit more because when I was 17 I dated someone who was waaaay older than I should have. Sorry this one didn’t work for you!

  3. Rashika

    I am so glad to see you enjoyed this more than I did, Jenni! I couldn’t really get behind it because I never really felt a connection to Bettina. She wasn’t unlikeable per se it’s just I never really liked her.

    I totally agree with you about the Brady disappearing in the middle part. I hated how the whole dynamic between Cowboy and Bettina took over the book at that point. It made me feel like the seriousness of the abusive relationship was being undermined .-.

    I didn’t see that ‘twist’ coming and I agree that it WAS a bold decision and I DID feel the heartbreak the author intended but in the end I never fell in love with this book either :/

    Lovely review, Jenni!! 🙂

    • Jenni

      Yeah, I was happy that the author took the turn that she did with Cowboy. I never connected with this one the way I would have liked to, I think because it felt like completely different books from the middle compared to beginning and end. Thanks for stopping by, Rashika!

  4. jazmen

    I seen this book around Goodreads but I just never felt compelled to read it. After reading your review I might change my mind. Great review, btw! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jenni

      It was unlike anything I have read lately in YA, the father was really strict, but I think it was really done. I hope you like it, Lisa!

  5. Michelle

    I have yet not read this gorgeous one by Leslie Connor, but I have heard so many good things about it… and a lot of bad things, too. I guess it goes either way for people– it basically depends on how much “contemporary” and “romance” one can take. I’m so glad you enjoyed this novel because I find that we have the same taste and opinions in books! Great review!

    • Jenni

      It tackles some topics that seem to make some people uncomfortable and the family dynamic is quite different from anything out there in YA right now. I think if you take it for what it is, it’s really well done. I hope you like it too, Michelle!

  6. Jasprit

    I don’t know why I overlooked this book at first, I really do like the way Connor has decided to focus on parents in a different way, its always refreshing to not get an absentee parent. I’m also interested in finding out how things will end up for Bettina! I think I will have to give this book a go a lot more sooner now! Gorgeous review Jenni!

    • Jenni

      It really is the opposite of absentee parents in this one, the father is really strict and controlling. But I think for a family that grew up with their values it was very well portrayed. I hope you like it!

  7. Pili

    I probably won’t be adding this one to my list, cause contemporaries are not really my thing, but I’m glad to hear that it is quite different from most contemps on the way it portrays the issues it addresses and that the family is important in it.
    Great review, Jenny!

    • Jenni

      Yeah I would say this is definitely one to stay away from is you are not a contemporary fan. Thanks for stopping by, Pili!

  8. tonyalee

    I felt like the pacing was slow on this one too. I didn’t connect it to the relationship development with Bettina and Cowboy at first, but I can see it.

    I actually really liked Bettina’s character. I felt like it was such a real portrayal of a girl trying to find herself, and how she reacted with Brady was realistic too.

    I do think there were too many “issues” going on in the book, to really focus on one, ya know?

    Anyway. Great review 🙂

    • Jenni

      Yeah, I think it was really well done how she didn’t want to lose her freedom that she had because of Brady, that was really well written. But the pacing had me yawning quite often in the middle. It did seem like the author tried to tackle a lot but I think she did a pretty good job of making it all come together. Thanks for stopping by, Tonyalee!

  9. lily

    This is the second reveiw i’ve read for this book and i’m pretty interested in it now. At first i had thought it was a purely fluffy book but now i’m reconsidering! It seems like a truly poignant read so i’ll have to go out and get my copy!

  10. Alex from Electrifying Reviews

    This one does have quite an interesting concept, but toxic relationships like you described drive me crazy! I may have to check this one out, however, if only because the concept behind it is somewhat different from other YA I’ve read. Thanks for the great review!

  11. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    I do like the sound of the Greek culture here, I’m glad how the concept shifted though to both toxic and forbidden relationships, a message that a lot of YA doesn’t even cover. Great review Jenni!