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Never Been Kissed

Review

Never Been Kissed

Elise is about to turn 16. While other teens may look forward to a Sweet 16 party, Elise knows that as the only child of a single mom who is struggling to make ends meet, it’s unlikely that a big party is in her future. Moreover, they have recently moved, which means living in the less-than-glamorous Tropicana Suites for now and starting her junior year at a new high school in the fall. As the summer draws to a close, Elise is bored, with no friends other than 14-year-old freshman Stacie, who lives in the same apartment complex.

Elise hopes that a new school will mean a new beginning. She would like a boyfriend of her own before she turns 16, someone from whom to get her very first kiss. Of course, she has been making up stories of exciting and glamorous ex-boyfriends to keep Stacie entertained, but the truth is that she hasn’t had one yet. Perhaps her luck is about to change now that she will be attending Garfield High.

When Elise meets Asher, a popular boy at school, she finds that they have an easy and immediate chemistry. Asher already has a girlfriend: another one of the popular kids, Brianna. At first, Elise is welcomed into Asher’s circle of friends, but quickly finds herself rebuffed when she’s spotted outside of school getting a ride home from Asher. Now she is a pariah with the cool crowd, just as quickly as she had been accepted into it. Although stung by the rejection, she makes other new friends, in particular a boy named Phillip from her art class, who invites her to church with him. Elise is happy that he has a relationship with God as she does, but it’s a pity he isn’t as exciting as Asher.

But there appears to be a silver lining to this storm cloud, as Elise receives an email from Asher, telling her he is interested in her and plans on breaking up with Brianna. Since he’s been with Brianna for over a year, Asher claims that it wouldn’t be fair to break up with her just before homecoming. He asks Elise to give him the cold shoulder at school and to be patient with him as he leaves his girlfriend to be with her. Elise is soon caught up in her whirlwind Internet romance, although she is careful to snub him at school so as to not give away their secret. But as time goes on and Asher appears content to continue dating Brianna, Elise becomes frustrated by the charade in which he is forcing her to participate and presses him to break up with Brianna.

Instead of doing so, Asher responds by accusing Elise of sexting nude pictures of herself to him. She finds herself under investigation by the police, who have seized their cell phones and computers as evidence. Although Elise knows she hasn’t done anything wrong, it seems no one will believe her. Her mother is furious, and even Stacie begins avoiding her. Initially, Elise hides out at her grandmother’s house and can’t imagine facing her classmates again. Perhaps she could change schools. Elise is desperate to be anywhere but in her humiliating and terrifying situation. But faith in God brings her through her darkest despair and helps her find the courage to work to clear her name.

Now Elise must return to school and face her accusers and classmates, and learn who has framed her and to what purpose. The naked girl in the picture has her back to the camera and looks exactly like Elise. Who is she? Why did she pose for the camera, and who took the photo? As Elise, with Phillip’s help, pieces the story together, she discovers who her friends are and who she really is. Most of all, she learns that her faith will support her through the best and worst of times.

NEVER BEEN KISSED manages to incorporate serious themes like bullying, sexting and teen suicide into an enjoyable and fast-paced read with a feel-good vibe. Elise is a believable and likable teenager, whose vulnerability and pluck both ring true. Although she stumbles into a very ugly situation, with some courage and reflection, Elise is able to center herself and prevail. With NEVER BEEN KISSED, Melody Carlson has written a positive and inspirational story about staying true to oneself.

Reviewed by Usha Rao on January 1, 2011

Never Been Kissed
by Melody Carlson

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2011
  • Genres: Christian, Fiction
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Revell
  • ISBN-10: 0800732596
  • ISBN-13: 9780800732592