December 17, 2014 • Cee • Reviews

Claire LaZebnik - The Last Best KissThe Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik
April 22, 2014
Harper Teen
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Anna Eliot is tired of worrying about what other people think. After all, that was how she lost the only guy she ever really liked, Finn Westbrook.

Now, three years after she broke his heart, the one who got away is back in her life.

All Anna wants is a chance to relive their last kiss again (and again and again). But Finn obviously hasn’t forgotten how she treated him, and he’s made it clear he has no interest in having anything to do with her.

Anna keeps trying to persuade herself that she doesn’t care about Finn either, but even though they’ve both changed since they first met, deep down she knows he’s the guy for her. Now if only she can get him to believe that, too….

With her signature wit and expertly authentic teen voice, Claire LaZebnik (the author of fan favorites Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting) once again breathes new life into a perennially popular love story. Fans of Polly Shulman, Maureen Johnson, and, of course, Jane Austen will love this irresistibly funny and romantic tale of first loves and second chances.

myreviewFirst sentence: “On nights when I’m honest with myself, I can admit that Finn Westbrook was the best thing about my ninth-grade year.”

I am a big sucker for Persuasion. It is one of my all-time favorite Jane Austen books, and it never fails to gut me, but The Last Best Kiss was just—ugh, I just want to erase it from my brain.

The Last Best Kiss is essentially a retelling of Persuasion. It tells of Anna Eliot, who breaks the heart of the boy she really likes, Finn Westbrook, because she’s worried about what people think of her. Then, a few years later, Finn returns to Anna’s life, and Anna can only regret the decision she made as her friends welcome Finn into their group, not realizing the two have a history. It’s a story that speaks of first loves and regret; one that failed to gain any of my sympathy and failed to connect me with the characters.

Five Things I Wanted to Happen in The Last Best Kiss to Like It

  • To feel the chemistry between Anna and Finn

I felt nothing. (Does that sound coldhearted? :P) I wasn’t convinced that Anna liked Finn and vice versa. I think it’s because of the way the origins of their love story was told. I didn’t feel like I was watching or being shown the development of their relationship. It felt like it was recapped to me very quickly in the beginning. One minute they were carpooling with each other and developing a friendship, and the next minute, Anna wasn’t sure she liked Finn in that way, but she liked him enough to enjoy his company, and then, a kiss occurred. Ummmm.  (It’s not even instalove. More like, lack of chemistry love.)

Two bland people being bland together. Whoop-dee-doo.

  • The origins of Anna’s and Finn’s love story to be withheld

I want to piece it together. Much like in Persuasion. I want to see their love story being developed throughout the entire story, and not right in the beginning where it felt rushed. I didn’t like their love story origin because the pacing was off, too fast. I want hints and references and internal dialogue about what happened before and during that time. Give me that because it would’ve been infinitely more bearable.

  • To read more about Anna’s insecurities

I wanted to see Anna’s insecurities of wanting to be liked when she entered high school.The book only touches upon it lightly. I didn’t get a real sense that she wanted to fit in by conforming to what all the other girls did. She said it once that she was insecure about what people thought of her—something like “we wanted to fit in because we were at a new school” and “I didn’t want to lose my friends”—but that wasn’t really shown in detail how exactly. There wasn’t much internal dialogue about it.

Maybe it would’ve been better to make Anna’s friends more judgmental of people. Or, what if Lucy became Anna’s first friend entering high school, and Anna wanted to please her? I would’ve believed Anna’s desire to want to fit in because of that.

  • A more believable character growth of Lily

I have such a problem with how she’s portrayed. Lily is the type of person who does whatever she wants to do. That’s fine, but my issue is why is she being reckless? It’s not simply, “oh that Lily. She’s such a free-spirit.” There must be a reason. I can infer a bit from the things revealed about her home life, but that’s it. It’s not properly developed throughout the story. I wanted more stuff to make me understand her behavior at faux-Coachella and why she was on a reckless path of destruction. At the end, I was still confused why she acted the way she did.

  • Anna’s dad to not be borderline creepy.

This has nothing to do with him seeing someone who is old enough to be his daughter. I have no qualms with that or of his behavior of acting caring to Anna when he was only roping her in to be his beard-of sorts. It’s when Lizzie, his oldest daughter and Anna’s older sister, catches her father and her friend in the midst of intimacy. The way her father reacted when he was caught in the act was not what I was expecting. It was 1. baffling that he was babying Lizzie (who talked to him in a little girl voice). You’re a grown-up, for god’s sake! and 2.

Spoiler title
weirdly incestuous to me. It was like he was speaking to her as if she was the love of his life that he can’t have or his lover, who he cheated on and was trying to placate.
. It’s fine that he dotes on Lizzie and considers her his favorite child, but he spoke to her in a way that was incredibly intimate. It was just weird.

gradeD

The Last Best Kiss is not the greatest retelling of Persuasion; it’s just decent, but barely. Two issues: pacing was off and character development was lacking. It failed to anchor me to the characters. I didn’t believe the love story because of the pacing and the constant “telling” of it in the beginning. All the characters just needed to be developed a lot more than what was given here. This book makes me apprehensive about reading Claire LaZebnik’s other Jane Austen retellings. It just doesn’t seem to work for me.


 


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