I feel like I’ve been really reading a lot of contemporaries lately, and with the great quality of some of the books that I have been picking up, it isn’t really a bad thing. I’ve really been into reading contemporary YA novels because of their tendency to be quick reads and fun. And let me tell you, How to Make Out was pure fun. Sure, my husband looked at me funny when I told him that yes, I was indeed reading a book titled How to Make Out, but the book just had a light air about it that made it catch my attention.
Renley is a sixteen year old girl who has two best friends, April and Drew, and lives with her father and stepmother, Stacey. Her mother left them several years ago to move to New York after catching her father cheating on her with Stacey, who is a lot younger than her mother. Renley misses her mother, who remarried and had another child, and who never even bothers to call Renley or send her a birthday card. Although she is crushed by this, she tries her best to move on with her life as best as she can, and that involves spending time with her friends.
When April and Renley, who are in math club together, find out that their club is going on a trip to New York at the end of the school year, they are super excited – until Renley finds out that she needs at least three grand to make the trip happen, and her father and Stacey won’t be able to contribute all that much. So Renley gets this idea to start a blog giving advice and answering questions. At first, she figures that she will start it off with simple, easy to answer questions, and as she gets more readers, she will start to charge for answering the question, and then for each person who wants to view the answer. She plans on noting that each answer will be sent in by a “certified professional,” which will of course make it sound legitimate and entice people to actually pay for answers. Of course, she plans on doing this anonymously, so that no one in school knows that it is her.
At first, she starts off with questions like “How to boil an egg” and “How to do a waterfall braid.” She spends hours figuring out how to braid her hair properly or apply cat eye makeup, and eventually, she starts getting questions like “How to make out,” which causes her to seek out Drew and ask him for his…expertise. From there, the questions end up taking a bit of a more…intense route…and in the name her blog and earning the money, Renley goes through with quite the task list in order to get more readers and more money.
When her crush on a boy named Seth, who is in her cooking class, turns into more than just a crush, Renley thinks that she has everything she wants – and then she and April get into a bit of a spat, and instead of apologizing or talking to her, she just keeps dating Seth, going to parties, and being introduced into a world that isn’t really her. Drew is obviously concerned about her, and since he is absolutely in love with her, watching her date Seth isn’t easy on him.
How to Make Out does have a love triangle, and while it’s a bit frustrating at times, it kind of really works in this book. Renley likes Seth but loves Drew and knows she can’t be with him (because of her issues with her mother leaving her), but Drew is so madly in love with her he would do anything for her. Seth likes Renley and she likes him, and together they make an interesting couple, but something about them together felt kind of wrong to me…you can tell the chemistry between them was pretty much nonexistent. But Drew? He really cared about Renley.
“‘I promise all those other girls one night. And I give it to them. And I promise you that I will never stop loving you. And I won’t. Because I don’t break my promises, whatever they are.”
Drew is in love with Renley, and Renley knows this, but feels as if she can’t return his feelings, although deep down she is incredibly confused about them. Even though Drew is in love with Renley, he still has one night stands with tons of different girls, and since Renley spends the night with Drew quite often, watching the Twilight Zone and sleeping with him in his bed (actually sleeping, nothing else), Renley’s father assumes that they are doing more than just “sleeping.” I think that was the part I found a bit unrealistic about this book…I mean, even if Renley and her father don’t have the best relationship (which they don’t), I highly doubt that he would let his sixteen year old daughter repeatedly spend the night with the boy next door, especially not if he believes they are having sex. Eighteen maybe…but sixteen? I guess I just found it a bit difficult to see, but I guess it’s probably something that does occur somewhere. I’m a mother of two daughters and I can say that I would NEVER let something like that go down, but whatever. I’m willing to get over that bit of weirdness for the rest of the book, because it was really good.
Watching Renley’s character change throughout the book from good girl to…whatever she turned into (not a very nice person, that’s for sure), to how she was at the end of the book was really interesting. While at times I found myself disliking Renley, I still hoped for the best for her, even though she was making crappy choices and pushing away everyone around her.
Drew was amazing, and I really liked him…he just cared so much about her, but he knew that he couldn’t have her, so he tried his hardest to let her go so that she could be with someone else. I found myself wanting to drag Renley in front of Drew and tell her how ridiculous she was being when she had the perfect guy right in front of her, but whatever. She made some stupid choices, but she seemed to really learn from them by the end (which brings me back to my love of character development and how awesome it was in this novel).
How to Make Out was a realistic look at the life of a girl who was torn between two loves and earning money to get to New York, as well as facing a lot of things at home, such as feeling somewhat neglected by her father and unloved by her mother. It had its heartbreaking moments, but the book was so good, I couldn’t help but keep turning the pages until I reached the very satisfying conclusion. Also, if you need a smile, pick this one up – I got quite a few laughs out of it, and for that, I absolutely loved it!
If you like YA contemporaries, you’ll probably like this one. It was light and all kinds of fluffy, and the chapters had titles that Renley was working on for her blog, which made it unique and even more fun to read.