cover image Frankie Murphy's Kiss List

Frankie Murphy's Kiss List

Donna Guthrie. Simon & Schuster, $15 (134pp) ISBN 978-0-671-75624-6

Frankie Murphy, who has moved from Philadelphia, thinks everyone in Harpersville, Ind., is lame. He is so sure of his superiority on every subject--including kissing girls--that he makes a bet with Guthrie's protagonist, Travis Marshall, that he can kiss every girl in the sixth grade before they graduate to junior high. Frankie's prize if he wins? Travis's beloved Oakland A's jacket. Guthrie ( The Witch Who Lives Down the Hall ) has written a surprisingly engaging story given the somewhat forced premise. Its message--that you can't treat girls as if they weren't real people with real feelings--is a satisfying one; Guthrie's portrayal of Travis's awkward realization during the painful course of the bet that he likes his best friend Annie in a special way that might be more than ``just friends'' is delicately handled, while a bit predictable. Guthrie's prose and dialogue are entertaining and credible (``Practically every girl in the whole school had a crush on him because he looked like Jason Priestly,'' Travis thinks of Frankie), as are the various contexts in which the plot line moves (roller-skating, girls' basketball practice, Ferris wheel rides). The only oddity in this story is that the prevailing ``girls vs. guys'' mentality remains unquestioned--even at the end of the book. Ages 9-13. (Oct.)