The Last Best Kiss
by Claire LaZebnik
Expected Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Length: 320 pages
Obtained Via: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via Edelweiss from the publisher. I was not compensated for this review, and this is no way affects my opinion of the book.
Format Read In: E-ARC
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Anna Eliot is tired of worrying about what other people think. After all, that was how she lost the only guy she ever really liked, Finn Westbrook.
Now, three years after she broke his heart, the one who got away is back in her life.
All Anna wants is a chance to relive their last kiss again (and again and again). But Finn obviously hasn’t forgotten how she treated him, and he’s made it clear he has no interest in having anything to do with her.
Anna keeps trying to persuade herself that she doesn’t care about Finn either, but even though they’ve both changed since they first met, deep down she knows he’s the guy for her. Now if only she can get him to believe that, too….
With her signature wit and expertly authentic teen voice, Claire LaZebnik (the author of fan favorites Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting) once again breathes new life into a perennially popular love story. Fans of Polly Shulman, Maureen Johnson, and, of course, Jane Austen will love this irresistibly funny and romantic tale of first loves and second chances.
I love Claire LaZebnik’s Jane Austen retellings. Despite the fact each of Jane Austen’s works has been retold in countless ways, LaZebnik’s always manages to feel fresh, and The Last Best Kiss is no exception. In fact, I like it much better than Epic Fail, the Pride & Prejudice retelling, and just as much as The Trouble with Flirting, the Mansfield Park retelling. The Last Best Kiss is a Persuasion retelling, which I haven’t read, but I was still totally engaged with the story. Perhaps it would have had another layer of meaning if I knew the original story better, but even so, The Last Best Kiss completely stands on its own.
Even though The Last Best Kiss is still a pretty breezy contemporary read overall, I think I liked it so much because it’s a little more serious than the other retellings, and LaZebnik also pushed the boundaries a little bit. Nothing major, but it really made a difference, at least for me. One of Anna’s sisters comes out as gay and has a girlfriend, and one of her friends gets stoned and does something stupid and dangerous, and for awhile the book gets really serious because of those two things. However, despite the quite serious themes, The Last Best Kiss never feels heavy or depressing, though it does sometimes feel sad.
It’s hard to like Anna at the beginning. Like the summary says, when Anna’s in the 9th grade she denies any connection to Finn, even though she really likes him. We get to see more of this than I was expecting, actually, and in the first chapter I just kept shaking my head at all the dumb decisions Anna was making, but it was definitely needed for the premise. Once the story jumped forward to the present in which Anna and her friends are seniors, she became much more likable. In many ways, Anna was an ordinary teenager, but I think her ability to reflect and realized her own mistakes was important and also a big part of The Last Best Kiss.
And can we talk about Finn? First, I loved that it’s emphasized he’s not the most handsome teenager ever. Hooray for normal-looking people! Of course, when he comes back his build has filled out and he’s grown several inches, but I never got the impression that I was suppose to think he was drop-dead gorgeous. Finn is easily excited about nature and is naturally curious about the world around him. He’s so eager to show Anna–and anyone else who wants–what he’s discovered and learned. He’s completely adorable and charming. In many ways, he reminds me of Oliver from Going Vintage.
Of course, a major theme of The Last Best Kiss is second chances: If they should be given & how. I really liked the exploration of this theme. It could have felt cheesy or cliche, but it never did, because Anna and Finn behaved like real people. I could see the intense and vulnerable conversations Anna and Finn had in The Last Best Kiss happening in real life.
In the end, though, The Last Best Kiss was just adorable. It was a tad more serious than LaZebnik’s other retellings, and it was always happy or cute, but on the whole it was just an adorable story. I was rooting for Finn and Anna so much, and had huge smiles whenever there was a scene when they were talking about landscapes or nature or anything else under the sun.
This might be my favorite of LaZebnik’s Austen retellings! The Last Best Kiss took some risks, which I definitely cheered on, and also dealt with more serious issues, but it never felt depressing or like a “heavy” read. The love story was adorable and I was rooting for Anna and Finn–especially Finn–the entire time. 4/5 cupcakes.