Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler
312 Pages (Paperback)
October 1, 2012
She never thought a kiss could kill...
Samantha didn't mean to hurt anyone. She was just trying to fit in… and she wanted to make Zee a little jealous after he completely ditched her for a prettier girl. So she kissed Alex. And then he died--right in her arms.
Sam is now the school pariah and a media sensation--how did she not know Alex had a peanut allergy? Consumed with guilt, she'll have to find a strength that goes way deeper than pulling off a fastest time in the 200-meter butterfly. Because if she can’t figure out how to forgive herself, no one else will either.
Who I Kissed is an heart wrenching story of coping with grief. Not the grief of a family recovering after the premature death of a son and brother, but the guilt and torment faced by the girl who accidentally kills him with one innocent kiss.
While at one of the few parties Samantha has decided to attend, she notices the boy who was watching her swim the other day. In a moment of weakness, they end up sharing a kiss that proves fatal. Alex goes into anaphylaxis and is pronounced dead on the way to the hospital. All because Sam kissed him after eating a peanut butter sandwich.
Some people read the synopsis and have a moment of disbelief, as if the story couldn't possibly be good because the premise is so odd. If any variation of this thought pops into your head, immediately grab hold of it and fling. Or better yet, set it on fire and burry the ashes. Who I Kissed is so much more than the story of a boy dying from an allergic reaction. Not only does Samantha have to deal with the tormenting of her peers, the mass media attention, the hurt appearance of Alex's sister in the hall way, the dissolution of an important friendship, and the fading of her dreams, but these events are all added to the important family matters that have been filed away and ignored. The story isn't about Alex, it isn't even about servere peanut allergies. Not to downplay Alex's role, but he is more of an instigator to events than the subject of the novel itself.
I love this book so much that I am getting confused just thinking about it. I have read and reviewed Gurtler's first two novels, I'm Not Her and If I Tell , both of which I very much so enjoyed, but Who I Kissed definitely takes the cake. I appreciated how real Sam's emotions were. She wasn't put down by the media attention or the ridicule of classmates, but rather she was destroyed by herself. It is her choice to limit her dreams and happiness. It is her who doesn't want to feel better, who thinks she has to suffer for what she did. She is continually torn between wanting to be punished and wanting to forget. Before she confronts Alex's family, she really has to deal with herself first.
Don't for a minute think that the plot is going to fall the usual contemporary pattern of: problem, drama, getting better, solution. It rises and falls, and drags emotions every which way. Just in case you needed one more incentive to pick up this novel.
If you love contemporary novels, or even moderately like them, Who I Kissed should be moved to the top of your to-read pile.