Equal parts swoonworthy romance and deeply affecting family drama, this debut novel about the boy next door turned super hot bad boy will have readers hooked from the very first kiss.
After his father’s stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.
With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school suddenly up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart, and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?
3 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.
This book started out as a solid 4 star, and just kept slowly motoring downhill from there. I honestly was sucked in by the storyline, and I thought Jill was an interesting heroine. And I was pulled in by the initial chemistry and connection between Jill and Max. And there were glimmers of goodness, don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy some aspects, but on the whole I ended the book on a heavy sigh. This review is probably going to focus on the negative aspects way too much, but I really did enjoy the few cute moments, hence why it’s not lower than 3 stars.
In the end, I didn’t really enjoy either Jill or Max. They both had good qualities, but they were HEAVILY overshadowed by their bad qualities. Or rather, I don’t feel like they redeemed themselves. Jill was definitely better than Max. I felt like I would start to like her, and then she would disappoint me and annoy me…then I would be impressed by some decision or choice she would make, then she would disappoint me again. I can chalk up a lot of her annoyance as being a fairly stereotypical teenager, so I guess I gave her more of a pass than Max in the end. But I still felt like I was shortchanged on her growth. As an example, I didn’t necessarily buy her change of heart about the money. I certainly wouldn’t have forgiven so easily, so it didn’t feel authentic.
Max’s journey was more of a deep valley of not good stuff, with a little blip of goodness occasionally. I get that he was screwed up and acting out badly, and that’s fine. I mean, it doesn’t leave me too impressed with him, but I get that was his storyline. But other than occasionally being sweet to Jill, when he dived back down, he REALLY dived back down. Where was his redemption? Maybe it’s because we don’t get to see inside his head, so while he says he’s trying to get better, you sort of see it, but as a reader I just didn’t buy it. I didn’t want to give him a pass. And he was so hypocritical! After all the crap he did, he totally jumped down Jill’s throat without giving her much time at all to grow as well! Not impressed. Gee, could you tell?
Inherently my problem with this story lies in the presence of a lot of one of my major button issues: cheating. I’m sorry folks, it’s just not for me. Maybe if it was just that first kiss. Maybe if he hadn’t stayed with his girlfriend time and time again, while simultaneously trying to explore a relationship with Jill as well. I could even forgive a little bit of Jill’s bad judgement, and her having to live with her decisions. But we’re given hints that there is more to Becky’s story, and then what we’re given just didn’t seem like enough, and as with most YA’s, we’re made to dislike her because she’s a bitch and a mean girl. It was a shame, it would have been more interesting if there was a hint of depth there. It definitely doesn’t show Max in a good light then. And it was like I was told about Jill’s emotional journey over how she feels about participating in cheating, but I didn’t feel it. AND THEN there’s her Dad. It was too much. Too many truly reprehensible characters with no redemption.
There were bright spots. I LOVED the development of Jill’s relationship with Meredith (and Ally to a degree). That truly surprised me in a good way. I enjoyed Jill’s passion for baking, and how she tried to figure out her future. And I loved the little bits we saw of Marcy and Bill.
Honestly, I could probably pick apart a few more tiny things (like I wish there was more from the friend side of things, Kyle or Leah), but it’s just not that important. This was a book with a lot of potential that just fell short in the end, and was tainted for me personally by the cheating topic. I recognize it’s hinted at in the blurb, but if I’d known the degree, I would have steered clear. Ah well.
6 thoughts on “Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman”
So cheating kind of ruins this one. I wondered about that. It’s one of the reasons I hadn’t read it yet. Great review. Thanks for sharing!
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Yeah, or at least it did for me. But to be fair, cheating really is a major button issue for me, so I have a lower tolerance.
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See, and I loved it! The cheating didn’t bother me because 1. They’re teenagers still learning to deal with their hormones/emotions/emotions. Jill DID feel guilt and remorse and ended things, trying to just be a friend. Even though she hated Max and Becky together she stepped back because she knew it was wrong.
Even Max expressed guilt for how he treated Becky.
That said, if cheating is a deal breaker for you, that would mar the story.
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Halloween was fine, it was the conscious decisions made at Thanksgiving that is where things went downhill for me. And even after THAT Max still didn’t break up with Becky. I get that they felt guilt, but I needed them to get to the right emotions sooner than a few months later. Even teenagers dealing with hormones and emotions can have integrity. And honestly, I still would have tolerated all that all right, but then the father was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s not that that all couldn’t happen with real people, but I want to be able to love my characters, and I just never loved Jill, and definitely not Max. His sweet moments were way too few and far between, and his attitude at Christmas over drinking and driving was deplorable. Realistic? Sure. But if you’re gonna have all that, then I needed WAY more sweet time afterwards to make up for it…I needed him to apologize to his parents. SOMETHING. I guess I’m a demanding reader.
I think I’m a FAR more forgiving reader. And far more willing to suspend disbelief. I wouldn’t say I’m easy to please, but maybe easier to please than you? haha
The good thing is you get to move onto the next book, and I can go back and read this one if I want. 😀
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