If it had not been for the BookSparks 2014 Summer Reading Challenge, there is no way that Bethany Neal's My Last Kiss would have made it onto my reading list. This is not a slight against Neal or her book, but I generally overlook Young Adult Fiction, unless it has made its way into pop culture or it's been recommended by a friend. What I love about the BookSparks challenge is that it has forced me to read beyond my normal picks and as an aspiring writing, any broadening of the horizons is a good thing.
Don't let the cover or the title fool you, My Last Kiss is a book with a decent amount of depth. Personally, I feel that both the cover and title give off the wrong impression, although they might appeal to a teen audience. I feel like they scream romance story, when this is anything but a romance.
Neal's story follows Cassidy Haines, who has died while attending her seventeenth birthday party, thrown by her two best friend's Aimee and Madison. Cassidy's spirit is unable to cross over until she can solve the mystery of her death. The only person who can see her ghost and help her, is Cassidy's boyfriend, Ethan. Unfortunately, just prior to her death, it was revealed that Cassidy had been cheating on Ethan with Caleb, a sensitive, yet unpopular kid with a drug problem. This story is not lacking drama.
My Last Kiss ping-pongs between the present, in which they are trying to solve the mystery and to flashbacks, in which the truth is revealed. Cassidy in her ghost form is pulled back and forth from the present to the past, with little control, kind of like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. She can't remember anything but the vaguest details about the night that she died and every flashback provides another piece of the puzzle.
For a majority of the book, this format really works and the pacing is strong. I found the story to be compelling and even though the "whodunnit" wasn't such a surprise, I still wanted to see how it was going to play out. However, in the last few chapters, the plot went into overdrive and there was just too much going on and with too many characters. It was a twist on-top of a twist that was unnecessary. I lost interest rapidly. Less would have been more. I didn't need the drama with the characters in the present, as figuring out what happened to Cassidy was story enough.
I liked the theme of regret, especially with a teenager who doesn't quite know what she wants and creates bigger problems because of it. I liked the character of Caleb and thought that he got a bit of a raw deal with Cassidy, making me dislike her. The teens and their actions/responses, rang true. It doesn't lend itself to likable characters, but it feels honest.
The story was good, but I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more, if I had been a teenager when I read it. I think this could be very successful in the Young Adult market.