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The Serious KissReview - The Serious Kiss
by Mary Hogan
HarperCollins, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Feb 23rd 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 8)

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Mary Hogan's The Serious Kiss.† The best moments occur when fourteen-year-old Libby Madrigal explains her complete mortification as her life goes from just normally awful to utterly miserable.† Libby lives with her pet chiwauawa, her eleven-year-old brother Dirk, her sixteen-year-old brother Rif, her overweight mother and her alcoholic father.† Her parents fight nearly all the time, and meal times are a nightmare, because her father picks fights with everyone.† Libby takes refuge in her friendship with her best friend Nadine and her dream of finding a boyfriend.† So the story starts out with the usual stories of high school difficulties as Libby tries to get close to Zack and has to deal with his aggressive girlfriend.† The plot suddenly shifts though when Libby's parents announce that they are moving house immediately. This is because her father has lost his job and they can no longer afford to live in their house.† When they get to their new town, the children find that they are in fact moving to a trailer park, to live next to their father's mother, who they had previously been told was dead.† Their Nana turns out to be a great cook, and she has made her whole mobile home into one large kitchen.† It also turns out that she refused to talk to her son until he had sobered up, and so they had not talked for twenty years, and Libby's father is far from happy about having to go back to live next to his mother.† So now Libby is living in a trailer far away from all her friends in a town that she hates.† But worst of all is Libby's first day at her new high school.† The teens on the school bus make fun of her as soon as she boards, and she has a panic attack as the bus arrives at the school.† She faints as she is getting off the bus and hits her head on the ground.† So she spends her first day at school with a large bandage around her head and everyone makes fun of her.† Things could hardly get any worse, so she refuses to go to school for the rest of the week.

Hogan manages to capture the excruciating feeling of being stuck with a family that does not work and one feels strong compassion for Libby as she tries to cope with the injustice of it all.† Of course, things turn around for her, as she learns to accept her situation and find the positive.† She makes a friend in her new school and discovers some great places to eat Mexican cooking in her new town.† One of the strongest elements in this book is description of Libby's preoccupation with food, wanting to avoid becoming fat like her mother, and so restricting her food intake.† She eventually realizes that she can eat normally and take much more pleasure in food, without gaining weight.† The last part of the novel is upbeat, as her father finally enters a rehab program and solves his drinking problems, her mother starts eating more healthily, her older brother stops hanging around with a bad crowd, and Libby finds a boyfriend.† The Serious Kiss is a quick read, and the twists and turns in the plot go by swiftly without much exploration.† This places the book firmly in the lightweight "YA" (young adult) genre, but it is both fun and educational about how to cope with serious family troubles.†

 

© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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