A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
I have to own up before I begin… I had already read Extreme Kissing before it became a book. In fact, I am beyond thrilled to be mentioned on the inside. My main involvement however was to say things like “fabulous”, “this bit is brilliant” and “I am soooo loving it”, but if that merits a mention in the acknowledgements then…. yeeeeha!
So, since I’ve known this book for quite a while, I consider myself well placed to share its brilliance with you. Think of this review as me introducing you to a much loved friend.
Extreme Kissing is the story of Bethany (Bets) and Carlota (Lots) and told from both perspectives. As the story begins ‘feisty Lots’ has been grounded and ‘stressing Bets’ has to use her good girl charm to get her out. That accomplished, Lots drags Bets on an Extreme Travelling adventure in order to try and make her forget about her boyfriend. Lots knows a secret about him but she doesn’t want to break the news until she has shown Bets that there are other fish in the sea. Bets is stressing to the max though – exams, her boyfriend hasn’t called or texted and she thinks she might be pregnant. Extreme Travel is the last thing on her mind. But Bets goes along with Lots in her mad scheme as they pick pages from their favourite magazine, Teen Spice and do exactly what the page tells them to do. This leads into all sorts of hilarity, excitement and also trouble. All the time though both girls are hiding their secrets from each other while thinking they’re the best friends in the world.
Extreme Kissing is not just a romantic comedy though. By experiencing the story from both of the girls points of view we can see their attempts to share their troubles and their failures to disclose the most important things on their minds. Meanwhile they carry on trying to keep each other happy. This situation turns what could merely be an very entertaining, funny story into something with a much deeper meaning and experience. It has poignant messages about betrayal, pregnancy, friendships and secrets and all pack a ferocious punch.
Extreme Kissing is hilarious, there are real laugh out loud moments like…
I flick through quickly, suddenly desperate to change the subject. The magazine’s full of snogging, shopping and slebs, so I really don’t understand how this challenge thing is going to work. Well, maybe apart from shopping. ‘I don’t get it Lots. Do adverts count? There’s a huge one here for a games console. What would we do, pretend to be Lara Croft?’
‘Yeah, good idea.’ Carlota does the puffed-out-Lauren-chest thing again and then uses her knitting needle to pretend-shoot a cross looking old woman sitting at the end of the carriage. ‘Nah, we’d go to one of those Soho games places and chat up some boys.’
Boys again! Carlota just can’t stop.
She glances at the magazine. ‘And if you pick a Tampax ad…’
She puts on a new-age guru voice. ‘We’d goooooo with the flooooow!’
But there are some real heartbreaking moments too…
I think a bit more. It’s making my head hurt. ‘Bets, how do you stand it?’
‘You know. Caring so much about boys. One boy, I mean. I’d forgotten what it was like, it’s so long since I’ve been with Yves. I mean, it’s brilliant, but it’s also horrible.’
Her lips flicker in an almost-smile. ‘Yeah, I know.’
‘I can’t stand the thought of him with someone else.’
She sighs. ‘Yeah I know.’
Now I’m nearly crying, which is unheard of for me.
‘God, Bets, I’m sorry.’ I’m never going to be able to break her heart like that. Stupid bloody Becca.
These multi layers, the humour and the heartbreak, the secrets and the betrayals and the two opposing perspectives from two very different girls are what makes Extreme Kissing a totally compelling page turner. Without doubt this book is a prime example of the incredible quality of literature available to our sisters, daughters and grand-daughters. It’s a book that will not only entertain, but one that they can put themselves into, identify with and hopefully find answers. And you really can’t get much better than that.