Walker & Company
ISBN: 978-0-8027-2318-5
January 2012
Youth – Seventh Grade and Up

Paris , Texas – The Present

Facebook: OMG, you have to see pig-kissing girl! This You Tube shows one of the princesses at the Cotton Festival being attacked by a pig that kisses her! It rips the front of her dress off too, and underneath she was wearing a ridiculous pair of Spanx. What a princess. Not. LOL.

Piper was the unfortunate girl in the video that went viral. She knows Germaine, high school cheerleader, Cotton Festival Queen, and an enemy out to humiliate Piper, planned the fiasco. Now Piper has a difficult time even leaving her home, let alone going to school and related activities. Everywhere she goes the sound of pig grunts and squeals follows her. It's a huge burden for a sixteen-year-old. Thankfully, Piper has the support of her friends Mei, Cassidy, and Izzy. When an opportunity arises, three of the friends go overseas on a student exchange program, offering Piper not only escape, but also the trip of a lifetime to Paris , France . Super smart Mei will go to China and perhaps find the parents who gave her up for adoption. Athletic Cassidy wants to go to Australia and finally asks her estranged dad to finance the trip. Unfortunately, environmentalist and vegetarian Izzy cannot go to Costa Rica . Izzy's parents can't afford to send her anywhere at all due to her brothers. She remains in Paris , Texas . Tanner Colt gets her a job on his parent's farm—Tanner, school quarterback, Piper's major crush from afar and forever, and evil Germaine's boyfriend. Luckily, he won't be interested in Invisible Izzy.

Fearing the ten-week separation the student exchange program will take, the four friends come up with a scheme to remain in contact. Through assumed (Disney character) names on a Facebook page they name IKC, or the International Kissing Club, they create a game: one point for each boy they kiss, three points for a super kiss. The page soon has thousands of viewers and shows kissing points earned all over the world. However, every day changes each girl. Will they remain friends, or will Germaine cause the ultimate break-up?

Piper, Izzy, Mei, and Cassidy are all very charming young women who vary greatly in personality and talents, each with different self-doubts, but they are the closest of friends and confidantes. THE INTERNATIONAL KISSING CLUB is a great story about self-growth and exploration, friendship, and, surprisingly, feminism. The different settings are well done and believable. If I have any complaints it is about the parents portrayed in the story. With Piper's experience and the bullying that follows, I would have expected parental and teacher outrage, but the investigation afterward is downplayed. (But, I'm way no longer sixteen, so what do I know?) Only at the end of the story, when the girls are in serious trouble, does one parent defend them. Parental behavior in this story exposes either Texas small town populations, or contemporary parents, as self-absorbed, gender biased, and dismissive idiots; or at least, perhaps as seen from a teenager's point of view. Teenage girls will find the story riveting. The prose and dialog flow with the anguish and joy of teenage life, and the Facebook and email correspondence is right up their alley. What young girl doesn't want to travel to exotic locations and fantasize about kissing handsome boys?

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Robin Lee