Kiss Number 8

illus. by Ellen T. Crenshaw. 320p. First Second. Mar. 2019. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781250196934; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781596437098.
Gr 9 Up—Mads lives in a conservative community with her deeply religious parents. Her social circle includes her friends from Catholic school, Cat, Adam, and Laura, but her best friend is her father. After overhearing a phone conversation that upsets him, she realizes that he's hiding something, but her parents refuse to answer her questions, leaving her angry and betrayed. Mads also wonders why her first seven kisses, with boys, aren't as stirring as kiss number eight, with Laura, and why she feels something deeper than friendship for Cat. A mysterious letter and an explosive confrontation with her parents and grandparents lead to a difficult realization, shaking up their relationships. This graphic novel addresses transphobia, sexuality, and hypocrisy. The art's retro feel serves the story well and is most powerful when depicting the contrast between truth and lies. The characters aren't especially deep but they help frame Mads's world. The resolution is realistically complicated, highlighting Mads's agency as she manages her conflicts. Though characters spend more time than necessary proclaiming their trans- and homophobic views, Mads's decisiveness and the clear look at how so-called "values" can mask harmful attitudes make this a thought-provoking book.
VERDICT A solid addition to YA shelves.–Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, Oakland

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