Friday, March 28, 2014

Review: The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik

Release date: April 22, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 320
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Edelweiss
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository | IndieBound
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've never read one of Claire LaZebnik's books before, but after reading The Last Best Kiss I know I'll be reading more. Persuasion is one of my favorite Austen stories, and I love retellings of it. The Last Best Kiss is equal parts adorable and fun, and a perfect light read. I read it in one sitting and enjoyed the heck out of doing so.

Three years ago, Anna was in love with Finn, the deeply nerdy boy who rode in the backseat with her in carpool. But she rejected him because her friends would never approve, and Finn soon moved out of town. Now, Finn is back, no longer quite so nerdy, and, clearly, he's still mad. Anna has realized in time that she never stopped loving Finn and that her biggest regret was hurting him. She only wants to show him she's changed, but Finn wants nothing to do with Anna. And it looks like he wants everything to do with one of her best friends, which just might completely break Anna's heart.

Even without having read Persuasion, there's so much to love in The Last Best Kiss. Anna is someone who has learned from her mistakes, and it's apparent in her character, especially as we're given views into Anna's thoughts and actions before and at the present time. It's a bit heartbreaking to follow her as she has to be treated badly and see the boy she loves give his attentions to someone else. But you can't help but understand Finn's anger. You can't help but want him to see Anna's changes, though, too. Anna's got a great group of friends with a dynamic that really works, and her family situation is one that shows you perhaps why the approval of her friends and peers is so important.

It's so appealing to read a modern adaptation of a story that deals with such universal themes. Every teenager is guilty of wanting to be accepted by their peers, of wanting to be like everyone else, never singled out for being different. Even as you, with your outside view, hate what Anna does, you also understand her motivation, but you probably can't help but admit that it's something you would've done at a time in your life. We're also all guilty of not wanting to forgive people when they've wronged us, even years later, and carrying that hate and anger for so long it hurts us. Again, you understand Finn's hurt, but you know his forgiveness is going to be better for everyone.

There's clearly a lot that I find appealing about this retelling, though you obviously don't need to have any knowledge of Persuasion in order to read The Last Best Kiss. I liked the modernization in that Anna's rejection of Finn comes from her desire to fit in amongst her peers, which is a perfect translation of the story's ideas. I thought the development of the relationship between Anna and Finn was really well done, and actually, there are elements that I thought were more appealing than in Persuasion itself. Not only do we see more of their interaction before the rejection, but there are more real moments between them after that show the true viability of their relationship. This is something not shown much in Persuasion, which isn't a problem necessarily, but it makes the story sweeter. Well done, Ms. LaZebnik!

The Last Best Kiss is an adorable YA contemporary that's got a lot to love. With an appealing romance that delivers on the swoon, laugh out loud moments between friends,  and heartwarming and heartbreaking family moments, you're in distinct danger of reading this book in one sitting like I did.

About the author:

Claire LaZebnik lives in Los Angeles with her TV-writer husband and four children. She has coauthored two books about autism with Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel (Overcoming Autism and Growing Up on the Spectrum). Her previous novels include Knitting Under the Influence, The Smart One and the Pretty One, Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts, Epic Fail, and The Trouble with Flirting. You can visit her online at

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