cover image Kiss Number 8

Kiss Number 8

Colleen AF Venable, illus. by Ellen T. Crenshaw. First Second, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59643-709-8

In 2004, Amanda’s life is full of comfortable constants: attending her Catholic high school; spending time with her best friend, Cat; attending church with her family; and watching minor league baseball and bad TV with her beloved father. An overheard conversation and a mysterious letter set her on the path to uncovering a family secret; around the same time, she realizes that she is probably in love with Cat. Venable (Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World) creates a remarkably full picture of Amanda’s life—family, school, church, baseball, the local music scene, and the corresponding and overlapping relationship dynamics. Amanda’s decisions—confronting her family about the secret, exploring her sexuality—lead to realistically messy consequences that are not easily remedied, and the way these open up and close off areas of her life is handled well. Black-and-white cartoon art by Crenshaw (Test Your Baby’s IQ) complements the narrative, offering distinct characters and conveying what the dialogue alone can’t. A queer coming-of-age story that earns its powerful emotional impact. Ages 14–up. Author’s agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Mar.)