cover image KISSING KATE


Lauren Myracle, . . Dutton, $16.99 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46917-9

Myracle's promising but uneven first novel introduces a misfit teen struggling with her sexuality. Lissa, who has lived with her little sister and bachelor uncle since her parents' death years ago, feels different from other girls: she drives a truck, shuns eyeliner—and kissed her best friend at a party. Now she and Kate avoid each other. Through her weekend job delivering for Entrées on Trays, Lissa gets to know a burgundy-haired, nose-ring-wearing free-spirited classmate who calls herself Ariel ("my spiritual name"). Ariel helps Lissa feel more comfortable in her own skin, a process reinforced by Lissa's experiments with lucid dreaming and by helping her sister deal with an overly precocious friend. Lissa slowly reveals the details of exactly what happened that night with Kate, as if building the courage to think about them. Her tentative reconciliation with Kate, followed by another blow-up, also rings true. Unfortunately, a number of characters, like Ariel and eccentric Entrées on Trays owner Darlin, read as clichéd, and while Lissa's circuitous narration seems realistic given her difficulty thinking about Kate, some readers may be fed up with it before they get to Myracle's point: with Ariel's help, Lissa realizes that she may be gay or just in love with Kate, and leaves herself open to possibility. The author's sophisticated, supportive and unusually candid approach to sexual orientation will reward those with patience for the ruminative narrator. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)