Secrets and Kisses
Celise Downs
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Secrets and Kisses

Celise Downs
Gemini Mojo Press
119 pages
March 2004
rated 1 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Maybe teenagers are less demanding than I think. Maybe they would be mildly entertained by a shoddy, careless book like Celise Downs' Secrets and Kisses. But I have a hard time imagining it. Downs' book is told from the viewpoint of Skylar, a seventeen-year-old girl whose biggest concern is whether she kisses well enough to lock lips with her hunky crush at a make-out party.

However, under the surface of her seemingly perfect high school, there's intrigue, backstabbing and perhaps even murder lurking among her classmates. It's an intriguing premise for a teen book, as I'm sure many teens imagine that their occasionally vicious classmates are nationally known criminals who will eventually pay for their crimes. But Downs does almost nothing with it.

More space is given to Skylar's attempts to become a better kisser than to her mounting suspicions about her classmates and, when the revelation comes, it's so hastily handled that it's impossible to feel any kind of shock about it. Even worse, Skylar - the main character - is kept on the sidelines of all the real action, so we only hear about things second-hand.

Downs' characters are poorly drawn and, for the most part, uninteresting. I kind of liked the character of Skylar's motor-mouthed best buddy, Ellie, but she's used too sparingly, and is almost exclusively relegated to the kissing subplot. Other than that, Downs' idea of character development is to give someone a Southern accent.

Overall, Secrets and Kisses isn't even a passable time-waster for the discriminating young reader.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Amanda Cuda, 2004

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