Terrific young adult, G-rated, romantic comedy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Publisher: 51 Square Press
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Norah Richmond is only 16 years old and a high school junior, but she has already spent years donating her time to many worthy charities, either by fundraising or by hands-on volunteer work, or both. Her current good cause is providing toilets for poor people in underdeveloped nations. This past summer she traveled with a youth group to Cambodia for two weeks to contribute to solving their sanitation problems caused by the fact that over 50% of the population lack access to a toilet. Since returning home, Norah has been determined to continue her commitment to the toilet charity by raising enough money to pay for 50 toilets. Unfortunately, the relatively small amount of money she is able to earn on her own, by bake sales, babysitting, and working part-time at her stepfather’s car dealership, is only enough to buy one toilet. To make up the difference, she decides to hold a charity auction, but she has had no luck so far convincing anyone to contribute to the auction other than her stepdad, and she is becoming quite discouraged.
Zac MacKenzie can’t believe his ears when his soccer coach, on the very first day of his junior year, informs him he is benched. And all because of a terrible misunderstanding that he has been unable to clear up, because of a promise he made to Kennedy Quinn, the on-again-off-again girlfriend of his best friend and fellow teammate, Myles Anderson. Several months ago, while Myles was currently broken up with Kennedy, she made a drunken pass at Zac at a teenage beach bash, and he immediately shut her down after she kissed him. But when Myles found out about the kiss a few weeks ago, instead of telling him what really happened, Kennedy lied to Myles, insisting that Zac was the one who kissed her. In a resentful, jealous rage, Myles attacked Zac and gave him a black eye. Rather than fighting back, Zac apologized profusely for the sin he did not commit, but Myles refused to listen and has stopped speaking to Zac. Coach has benched both of them and refuses to allow either of them to participate in the annual soccer team tryouts coming up in three weeks unless they have resolved their differences before that time. Zac is more than willing to do just that, but several currently insurmountable barriers stand in his way: Kennedy refuses to stop lying about what happened, and even if Zac thought Myles would believe him if he contradicted Kennedy—which Zac is too much of a gentleman to do—he couldn’t manage it while Myles is freezing him out.
Zac once again apologizes for the offense he didn’t commit, this time to his coach, but it makes no difference. Coach is adamant, and his disciplinary action is a terrible blow. Zac believes his twin sister, Via, a straight-A student, got all the brains in their family and that a soccer scholarship is his only hope to pay for college, since their family is not well off. If he can’t get back on the team, that potential scholarship is toast. Then, suddenly, a possible solution occurs to Zac. If he had a fake girlfriend, it might convince Myles that Zac has no interest in any other girl, including Kennedy. And the day he literally trips over Norah outside their high school cafeteria, while Kennedy is throwing a milkshake and a cup of soda all over him after he begs her to tell Myles the truth, Zac is convinced he’s found just the girl to help him out. It turns out that Norah needs him as much as he needs her, which means they can be mutually beneficial to each other. He is convinced that he can help her raise money for her charity and, given that Norah is a very pretty girl, he is positive that their pretence of dating will be very believable to Myles.
Zac and Norah are wonderful together in this book, and they are both adorable. We get to know each of them very well, because the book is told in alternating points of view of the two of them. Though Zac is perceived by Norah as a “serial flirt,” he doesn’t date, and there is no indication that he has ever gone farther with girls than kissing. Norah has never dated either, and she has also never been kissed. But even though they are both at a similar level of innocence, the author does a terrific job displaying very strong chemistry between the two of them.
I very much enjoy romance novels where the hero and heroine first grow to be good friends before they move into romance, which is the case with this book. This story also offers an ideal type of relationship where the two romantic partners bring out the best in each other. Because this is YA, there is inevitably a “coming of age” aspect to the story, and it is done really well in this book. Across the length of the story, Norah and Zach inspire each other to grow in self-confidence and self-acceptance in important ways.
The setting of this novel is in Cricket Bay, a fictional, small, Southern California beach town. This town first appears in the second book in this “How to” series, How to Kiss a Bad Boy, which is also a romantic comedy. The first book in this series, How to Kiss Your Enemy, which is a romantic comedy as well, occurs at a family camping ground in a California state park, and it introduces Zac as a subcharacter. How to Kiss Your Crush occurs a few weeks after the events in HTKYE. In that book, the main focus is on Zac’s twin sister, Via, and her enemies-to-romance journey with a very cute teenage nerd, Hudson Trent. Val and Hudson appear as significant subcharacters in this book, and it is fun to catch up with them.
By the way, Norah’s dedication to aiding a toilet charity is a story “torn out of the headlines.” Out of curiosity, I googled “toilets” and “Cambodia” and found information on a number of charities that deal with this issue. Some of them include: Wetlands Work, IDE Cambodia, WaterSHED, Heartprint, and Wateraid.
I had a great time reading this delightful young adult (YA), G-rated, romantic comedy. It is such a treat to run across a well done, lighthearted YA novel like this one in the midst of a vast sea of dark, YA melodramas. Since all three of the books in this amusing series have been so consistently well done, I very much look forward to reading any future “How to” books by this talented author.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Coming of Age Plot: 5