________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 18 . . . . January 16, 2015


Kissing Frogs.

Alisha Sevigny.
Halifax, NS: Fierce Ink Press, 2014.
272 pp., trade pbk., EPUB & Kindle, $16.99 (pbk.), $7.99 (EPUB), $4.99 (Kindle).
ISBN 978-1-927746-66-0.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Susie Wilson.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



I swoop down over the treetops at breathtaking speed. Opening my eyes, I don't take them off the landing area or stop screaming the entire time. When I get close to the end, I pull down on the cable to slow myself and put my feet up, bracing for impact. Hefty helps me brake and before I know it I'm touching solid ground again.

My stomach is in my chest. My heart is in my throat.

"You did it!" Travis grabs me and gives me a hug. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"

It wasn't.

In fact, it's the biggest rush I've ever had.

"Let's do the next one," I look up at him, eager to continue the tour.

He laughs, his eyes sparkling. "Knew you'd love it. This time try to look around and take in the scenery.

We do two more lines, each one steeper and longer than the last. It's exhilarating to soar through the canopy, over streams and trees, the wind rushing up in your face. It really is like flying.

"This is the last one," Travis says as we reach the fourth line. "It goes by the waterfall."

"Can I go first this time?" I ask, feeling brave.

"But of course, Princess" he says, one hand showing the way.

"Cut it out," I say, too euphoric to mind much.

Our other guide, who Travis introduces as Jose, goes first again. He flies down lightning fast until he's just a speck below.

I step up to the final wooden platform. It's scarier knowing Travis won't be waiting on the other side. I hear the waterfall to my right. This time I look down. And down. It's the steepest and longest cable yet.

"I can go first if you want." Travis senses my hesitation.

"No, I'm okay," I say, exhaling deeply.

Arturo hooks me up and steps back, holding the cables tight.

I walk off the edge of the world.

Kissing Frogs, by Alisha Sevigny, is a tale as old as books aimed at teenaged girls: smart girl gets a chance to start over, dumbs herself down and pretties herself up to get in with the 'popular' crowd, realizes the value in being true to herself, and lives happily ever after. In our case, we have Jessica, super-popular secret braniac who is currently in danger of failing biology because she has put her social status above her education. Her teacher, Mr. A, gives her one last chance to pull her grade up: skip her spring break adventure to Florida with her boyfriend and two best friends and accompany him and a group of other students on a conservation trip to Panama to learn about the endangered golden frog. Once on the trip, Jessica discovers an old 'enemy' of hers from her previous school, Travis, has also transferred to this new school. Travis, unfortunately, knows Jessica's secret: that she used to be "Messy Jesse", socially awkward nerd, a person that has been almost completely obliterated in favour of the new, popular Jessica.

      Jessica loses a prized ring inherited from her grandmother on one of the first field trips, and once Travis retrieves it from the bottom of a natural pool, he asks for the chance to take Jessica on three 'non-dates' in return, something which she hesitantly agrees to. As the target of bullying from two of the girls on the trip, Jessica struggles to fit in with her new, forced peer group. She makes new friends along the way, goes on some successful and not-so-successful adventures, from zip-lining to learning how to surf to the whole group sneaking in to a resort bar, and comes to terms with the person she truly is versus the persona she created to get in with the popular crowd. In the end, she even makes a daringly stupid rescue of endangered gold frogs that were put at risk by two girls playing a prank on Jessica by hiding them in the resort, which was ablaze as a result of a nearby bush fire.

      Kissing Frogs isn't particularly groundbreaking or exciting, but that doesn't make it a bad read. Sevigny initially seems to awkwardly grasp at the tone she wants for the book, making the first chapters sometimes cringe-inducing. Luckily, once she hits her stride, she settles comfortably into a quick, engaging tone. While the plot device of the conservation club trip to Panama is clearly meant to allow for educational exposition about the endangered golden frog, the information itself is included in an organic way that doesn't take the reader out of the story. It is a quick, light read, most definitely aimed at girls who are interested in more reality than fantasy fiction. The educational aspect isn't too overwhelming and definitely isn't something that will put anyone off. The descriptions of the setting, El Valle de Anton, are incredible. Even the most unimaginative person will have no trouble being completely taken in by Sevigny's incredibly detailed passages which not only convey the beauty of the area but the wonder it inspires.

      The story, itself, leaves something to be desired, if only because it clings tightly enough to the tropes that no major plot point is unexpected. Jessica's "hottest-guy-in-school boyfriend" hooks up with her best friend basically as soon as Jessica has to back out of the spring break trip. Jessica realizes she is happier not having to hide her studious side and decides she wants to go back to pursuing her dream of attending Berkeley. We also learn that supposed "nerdy" girls can be either great friends or engage in typical "mean girl" bullying. It would have been far more surprising if Travis hadn't ended up wooing Jessica, but, of course, the boy who used to tease "Messy Jesse" only did it because he liked her, and, of course, they ended up happily together in the end. In the end, though, Kissing Frogs is a lighthearted, enjoyable read.


Susie Wilson is a graduate from SLIS at the University of Alberta. She reads, lives and works in Northern British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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