Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 24th, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: ARC borrowed thru Around the World ARC Tours
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.
~ The book opens with Bettina cutting off her long, beautiful braid, so right away you kind of know that it’s not going to be a contemporary novel full of sunshine and daisies.
~ Before becoming Brady’s girlfriend, Bettina is an eclectic mix of goth, rock and steampunk. Brady is super preppy, but Bettina’s strict Greek family seem to like him.
~ Before falling for Brady, Bettina’s best friend and partner in crime, Julia, moves away. For months Bettina was a bit adrift, so she’s pretty relieved when Brady comes into the picture since he’s the ticket to her being out of the house.
~ I have to admit, I thought Brady was pretty damn sweet in the beginning, and it’s easy to see how Bettina is persuading into becoming a cheerleader.
~ Bampas. Oh, Bampas. I thought at first he was just a little over protective, and a bit sexist. I thought I would find his primitive daddy routine endearing. But as the story went on I just wanted to punch him.
~ Brady and Bettina’s relationship slowly evolves from sweet to scary. Like any good abuser, Brady takes his time escalating his behavior, and for certain reasons, Bettina is particularly at risk for glossing over his abusiveness. It’s a hard subject matter to read, but one that I think is so important for young women to read about. Brady isn’t super violent, a lot of his actions are verbal and small bursts of anger, but that’s what makes people like him dangerous.
~ I love that moment when you find out where a book title comes from- in this case it’s something that Bettina’s dad says to her, pretty much as a “get over it already” kind of thing. Which is actually infuriating. I hate when people tell me to get over something, that’s not just something you can command! And now I want to punch Bettina’s dad. Again.
~ Okay, let’s get to Cowboy. At first I wasn’t crazy about him. His age, while older, isn’t really revealed for most of the book, which made me uneasy. But he grew on me, as did his relationship with Bettina. And their relationship, while part of Bettina’s life, isn’t the entire focus of the book. It’s much more about Bettina growing up and seeing the world around her for what it is. Cowboy is kind of her safe haven during this time. And if they’re a little flirty, all the better for it. 😉
~ Part of Bettina’s story is hanging out with her friend Tony’s ailing grandmother. I loved their scenes together, Regina was some much needed comic relief in a book that was dealing with abuse. Also, Regina’s snow globes kick ass.
~ Another part of the book I really loved was Bettina’s art class project and the concept she comes up with for a very cool coffeehouse. I loved that this book was about all the parts of Bettina’s life, and not just who she was kissing or which boy she should choose.
~ There are certain things about both Bampas and Cowboy that are slowly uncovered during the course of the book, and I really liked how Bettina had to deal with the new information she is learning about the people in her life.
~ I didn’t have a lot of issues with this book, but I do think Nonna Regina seems fairly old for just 66 (it’s not that old anymore, people!), she seemed closer at times to 80, but that could be partly because of her disease. I also wanted more info on Bettina’s family’s bunnies. Every book should have bunnies. Also, I felt like Brady’s storyline needed more… conclusion. However it’s also the way life goes, so I can’t fault it for being unrealistic.
~ Warning, this book may rip your heart to shreds… just a little bit. Or a lot. Depends on the heart, I guess. At least I gave you some kind of warning.
Bettina- our mc, who is discovering that life is complicated as she navigates the waters of her overprotective father, her first love who happens to be abusive, and an older man who makes her feel like herself.
Brady- Bettina’s boyfriend, plays basketball and charms everyone into thinking he’s a good guy.
Cowboy- not his real name, but that’s what Bettina calls him when she first meets him at his autoshop.
Momma & Bampas- Bettina’s parents.
Favian & Avel- Bettina’s little brothers.
Tony- Bettina’s friend from her old neighborhood.
Bonnie- school friend also as into art as Bettina. Family owns a funeral home, so she’s super cool in my book.
Emmy- the only nice cheerleader (there’s usually one at every school allowed).
Nonna Regina- Tony’s grandmother- equal parts scary and awesome. She wins my favorite character award for this book.
Something occurs at the end that maybe I should have been expecting, and I was, but in a completely different way than I thought would happen. Sorry, that’s all I can share without spoiling!
Stop the Clock:
I was not prepared for how much I would end up loving this book- mostly because I have a hard time with men in their 20’s dating high school girls. I’ve conveniently forgotten how I felt at 17, or the fact that in 7th grade I thought it totally reasonable that Johnny Depp should date me. Leslie Connor makes the friendship that grows between Bettina and Cowboy completely realistic- far from pervy. They really are exactly what the other needs, and not in a creepy Marvin Gaye “Sexual Healing” kind of way, or in a Lolita kind of way. However, you should prepare for the feels this book will give you. I plan on buying some stock in Kleenex by the time this book hits the shelves in June.
The Things You Kiss Goodbye gets a Midnight Book rating of: