Review: Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

Posted October 30, 2012 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: Who I Kissed by Janet GurtlerReviewer: Rowena
Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: October 1st 2012
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 320
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Janet Gurtler's latest contemporary YA novel is by turns gripping, heart-wrenching, and joyous as one teen girl has to find the courage to carry on after a devastating tragedy.

She never thought a kiss could kill...

As the new girl in town, Samantha just wants to fit in. Being invited to a party by her fellow swim team members is her big chance...especially since Zee will be there. He hasn't made a secret of checking her out at the pool. Sam didn't figure on Alex being there too. She barely even knows him. And she certainly didn't plan to kiss him. It just kind of happened.

And then Alex dies—right in her arms...

Consumed by guilt and grief, Sam has no idea what to do or where to turn when everyone at school blames her. What follows is Sam's honest, raw, and unforgettable journey to forgive herself and find balance—maybe even love—in a life that suddenly seems to be spinning out of control.

I was curious to see how I’d like this book, given the premise behind it. I can’t even imagine the kind of guilt and grief a girl would feel after making out with a guy and having him die because you ate a peanut butter sandwich before the party. I found that while reading through this story, Sam’s reaction to everything that happened rang true. It felt real and my heart was broken for her, for Zee and for Alex’s family. There were so many things going on in this story, so much guilt that it was hard not to get emotionally attached to everyone in the story.

There’s Sam’s guilt over kissing a boy she barely knew. There’s Chloe’s guilt over staying with her boyfriend than checking on her brother like she meant to. There’s Zee’s guilt over the crappy way he treated Sam that led to her kissing Alex. So much guilt and so many people drowning in it.

The story goes like this: Sam is the new girl in school and she swims (exceptionally well). Sam likes Zee. Zee seems interested in Sam. Zee and Alex are best friends. They all go to a party. Zee and Sam talk, hit it off. Zee is pretty drunk. Sam is not. Zee’s ex-hook up bulldozes her way into Zee’s lap. Zee does not push her off. Sam is hurt. Alex makes himself known. Alex and Sam talk. Alex makes Sam feel better about Zee’s rejection. Sam tries to teach Zee a lesson. Alex and Sam kiss. Alex dies. And then guilt…all around.

The bulk of this story deals with what happens after Alex dies. It’s told through Sam’s point of view but Gurtler did a great job of inserting the other characters and their emotions in as well. The sub-plot about Sam’s mom’s death is thrown in there which I thought added more depth to Samantha’s character.

I couldn’t put this book down. I started it long after I posted on Goodreads that I was reading it but once I opened it up, I couldn’t put it down. I was too interested in getting to know Sam, in getting to know what happened after that party at Taylor’s house. I was invested in Sam’s story and I thought the author did a great job of sucking this reader right into Sam’s world. She’s the new girl in school and she didn’t know about Alex’s peanut allergy. She was the new girl in school and she was trying to live down a false reputation at her last school that was started by girls who were jealous of Sam’s ability to swim faster than some fish.

Sam was a good person and she didn’t deserve any of the treatment that she got before she came to Tadita and after the party at Taylor’s but what gutted me was that she thought she did. She thought of herself as a murderer and she just took the treatment that the kids at school threw her way. She took the treatment that Zee gave her on the chin because she thought she deserved it and that made my heart hurt for her in a way that it hasn’t hurt for a character in a long time. I was so glad when her Aunt Allie finally came into the picture because even though I knew that her father loved her and wanted to help her, it was more than a little obvious that he didn’t know how to help her. Sam was drowning in a sea of guilt and it wasn’t healthy and I was super glad that she had people in her life that loved her enough to want to get her that help. She was also very fortunate to have a good friend in Taylor. Taylor was the best friend that Sam had and seeing her stand up to the people who stared and murmured behind their hands at Sam made me want to pay for her college tuition or something.

I really liked that even though Sam thrashed out at those around her (the people that didn’t deserve her attitude), she knew that she needed help and she didn’t waste anyone’s time when that help was presented to her. This is one of those stories that could happen in real life. It’s real and it’s something that we could have heard on the news and this book takes us into that what happens next situation and tells the story of a young girl who was a good person that went through some really bad crap. I came to love Sam as if she were my own daughter and was happy that she had a good support system through her family and her friend. Sam learns a lot about herself and about life and I thought Gurtler did a great job with the writing of this book. I really liked it and what I liked most about it is that it made me think about how I’d react if something like this happened to me. Not just to me but what if it happened in my town, when I was in high school. I know that I wouldn’t have been one of the people that treated Sam like she was a killer but what would I have thought? How would I have reacted?

This was a good story and I thoroughly recommend it.

…and that’s your scoop!

This book is available from Sourcebooks Fire. This book was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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3 responses to “Review: Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

  1. Ooh, I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I read her book If I Tell and it was pretty good, but it had some issues. This one sounds like it has a more unique premise, and she does drama SO well. Definitely going to pick it up.

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