Publisher: Walker & Company
Publication Date: January 3rd, 2012
Piper, Cassidy, Mei, and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. And they've always agreed on one goal: to get out of tiny Paris, Texas, and see the world. The school's foreign exchange program seems like the perfect escape: Piper will go to the original Paris; Mei will go to China; Cassidy will go to Australia; and Izzy, unable to afford the program, will stay at home. To add spice to their semester away, and to stay connected to their best friends, the girls start The International Kissing Club, a Facebook page where they can anonymously update one another and brag about all the amazing guys they're meeting. After all, these girls are traveling abroad: amazing guys abound at every turn! But sometimes fun, flirty vacation flings turn into more serious romances, and sometimes you don't return from abroad the same person you were. Will the girls' relationships-and their friendships-be able to survive?
(Courtesy of Goodreads)
I really thought this book was going to be a lame Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants rip-off, but I decided to give it a shot anyway because I thought it was something that teen girls would find relevant to their own lives. I was certainly right about the second half of my statement; this book is definitely relevant to this generation of teen girls with its story centered around a Facebook fan page and its references to Twitter and Foursquare. What I was wrong about was the assumption that this would be a lame rip-off! It was an entirely different story and very, very cute. I think teen girls will absolutely adore this book.
This book is very character driven as it is told from the POV of the four girls featured on the cover. I instantly liked Mei, Cassidy, and Izzy. They were all nice girls with their heads on straight. Mei is focused and driven, and while she had her own personal issues to face, she did it head-on, and without dragging other people into the drama. Izzy is shy and a bit dim at times, but not stupid; she doesn't read social cues well and has a hard time standing up for herself. She calls herself "Invisabel" because she feels like no one notices her, but I felt like a lot of that was self-inflicted. She grew up a lot in this story, and while she still has a long was to go, I see a bright future for her. Cassidy was my favorite character. She is fiercely loyal, driven, and outspoken, almost to a fault. I felt really bad for Cassidy, because although all the girls had varying degrees of family drama, in my mind, hers was the worst because he mother instilled all of her hatred and fear of men into her so that she had serious trust and love issues, and that just sucks. I was happy to be on her journey with her because I think she grew the most and in the most profound way. Finally we have Piper... I didn't like Piper from the get-go. She is shallow, self-absorbed, and insipid. Sure, her mother is a witch, and the mean girl at school has had her in her sights for years, but Piper doesn't do anything to improve her lot, and then dramatizes and provokes, bringing more attention to herself. She feels so sorry for herself, but really, she has a pretty cushy lifestyle, even if Mommy Dearest is majorly overcritical and unloving. So she "kissed a pig" and it went viral. Big freaking deal. Although she grows a little bit in this book, she doesn't improve my opinion of her much. I think the authors tried to write her as a sympathetic character, but she just never came off that way for me. I liked the boys as well, especially Lucas, who is about as perfect as a boy could be, and I'm glad my favorite character got him as a love interest.
As for the story itself, it was very cute. I liked that everything wasn't tied up neatly with a bow, and I thought the authors (Ivy Adams is a pen name for writing trio, Tracy Deebs, Emily McKay, and Shellee Roberts) did a good job portraying average, small-town, American life. They also really nailed the dynamics of the high school hierarchy, which gave the story credibility. The thing I liked the most though, was that they did a great job writing the girls' reactions to their new surroundings (or in Izzy's case, her hometown, without her three only friends).
Overall, I really liked this book but I didn't love it. It was slow in a few places, and like I said, I really didn't like Piper much, and since she was the most prevalent voice in the book, I felt like the book was brought down a notch. That said, it was a very light, flirty, and fun read that I would definitely recommend it to teen girls and adult readers that a big into Contemporary YA Romance. However, if you're a reader looking for a book with substance, you may want to skip this one.
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Grade Level Recommendation: There is lots of sex talk in this book (characters having sex, considering having sex, talking about other people and their sexual activity, etc.), quite a few swears, and lots of mean-girl antics, and irresponsible internet use, with little, if any, consequence. There's also a good bit of teen drinking with no consequence. I would say this is a HS level book for content. Grades 9 and up (ages 14 and up).