CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 7. . . .October 20, 2017
Kiss Me in New York.
Toronto, ON: KCP Loft/Kids Can Press, 2017.
189 pp., hardcover, $17.99.
Grades 10-12 / Ages 15-17.
Review by Penta Ledger.
“I’ve been here almost four months,” Charlotte says, “and I’ve spent most of my time inside a classroom or in the Lawrences’ house, studying. I haven’t seen the Statue of Liberty, the Rockefeller Center or the UN. I should at least cross something lame and obvious off the list, right?”
I can’t really argue with that, but I also can’t pretend like I’m down for this - I’m actually taking out my phone and hoping that some random, forgotten high school buddy has responded to my WhatsApp message. But my lock screen shows no notification. Just my background image - the selfie that Maya made me take in the airport on the day she left for college. I’m kissing her cheek, and she’s looking off camera, like something - someone - has caught her eye. Of course she is.
“It’s not like you have anything better to do,” Charlotte says. Her voice is teasing, but, for a moment, it reminds me a little too much of the condescending tone that Maya would use sometimes, the Maya who apparently couldn’t give me her full attention even when I was kissing her goodbye, and I can hear in my own voice that I’m kind of snapping at Charlotte more than I should be.
“It’s Christmas Eve. Of course no one’s checking their phone every five minutes.”
She sights, like she’s annoyed - just irritated. Maya would have gasped and looked like she was about to cry. “Yes or no,” she says, half turning to point to the subway station. “Yes or no, can we get a train for this station to the Empire State Building?”
I don't’ answer, but she can see from my face that we can - F train, D train. We can be there in ten minutes.
“Right, then, since we just happened to be walking this way - for no reason, let’s be honest - I say we call this fate. Let’s go.”
I really should have taken charge when we left the diner.
Charlotte leads me into the station but stops at the bottom of the stairs. Sitting there is a bedraggled, balding guy in a tatty parka, a cardboard sign in front of him asking for five bucks for dog food, an arrow pointing to a sleeping puppy - a white English bulldog - nestled in the crook of his arm. He sees us see him (well, he sees us see the dog) and starts stroking its head.
“You guys got it in your hearts to help me feed this girl?”
I really don't want to play the cynical New Yorker in front of Charlotte, but I don’t buy it. I roll my eyes when she drops into a crouch to join the guy in petting the dog, who is just starting to wake up.
“What’s her name?” Charlotte asks.
I’m trying to figure out how to pull her away, so she doesn’t get lured into some kind of scam - but before I can do anything, my phone buzzes against my leg, and my chest clenches with what could be dread but is probably hope. Maybe it’s Maya. Maybe she’s gotten tired of Handsome Hipster already and is thinking she’s made a huge mistake.
I take my phone out and see that I’ve got not a text but a WhatsApp message - it might still be from Maya - but when I go in to see it, I just get a white screen with a gray rind of doom, like the app’s saying, “Damn, I know he message is here somewhere, Anthony. I just had it. But God knows what I did with it. I’m such a dumbass.” The signal’s not strong enough down here.
Charlotte’s still petting the puppy, who’s wide awake now and licking her hand. The guy in the parka says something about not wanting to take her to a shelter, and I know I should start hustling Charlotte down to the tracks, even if she does want to do something lame and touristy like go to the Empire State Building, but…
What if it’s Maya, saying she’s kicked Handsome Hipster to the curb, and that she really does want me to spend Christmas with her family after all?
I know this is a terrible idea. And I hate myself for wanting it to be Maya. But I also know that there’s no way I’m not going to look at the message. So, while Charlotte is cooing over the dog, I lean down, tell her I’ll be right back, then take the steps two at a time back up to street level.
So I type thanks to Vinnie and add that I’ll try to swing by, then turn around to go get Charlotte.
But I don’t have to go get her - she’s already at the top of the stairs.
Walking an English bulldog puppy.
“Oh, you gotta be kidding me!” I’m pinching the bridge of my nose like I have a splitting headache, which is something all Monteleone men do when we’re stressed out. Luke copied Dad, and I copied Luke - and then Dad told me not to imitate my big brother all the time, that I should be my own man. I was seven.
“I could tell that guy down there wasn’t after money for dog food,” she says, handing me the puppy’s leash - as if I want it. “He was conning commuters, obviously - I could actually see an iPhone in his pocket. It looked newer than mine!”
“So you took…”
“Fifty dollars.” She’s beaming at me like she’s gotten the best deal in the world. “Small price to pay to save a dog from an owner who, I can tell, didn’t care about her. She can go to a better home. A loving home.”
“Where? In England? You want to take the puppy with you? You’re getting on a plane in a few hours, and there are rules about this kind of thing. Quarantines, paperwork - I don’t even know!”
She’s shaking her head at me. “We’ve got all night.” She kneels down to fuss over the puppy, who squirms and yaps, and, despite myself, I feel an insistent urge to pick her up. “Who wouldn't’ want to take this little princess home with them? It’ll be fine. Also…” She takes out her books. The book that’s gotten me into this mess. It’s only now I notice that there’s a puppy on the damned cover.
I think I remember something…” She flicks through the pages. “Yes! I thought I remembered seeing this chapter. Look - Step Four.” She turns the book around and shows it to me: “‘Take care of somebody else - so that you remember how to take care of you.”
Charlotte Cheshire left her home and family in Britain to spend her last semester of high school trying to re-make herself in New York. Now, with the semester over and an ex-boyfriend named Colin who broke her heart, she’s ready to fly home for Christmas. Charlotte’s so ready to go home that she arrives at JFK five hours early and tries to take her mind off everything by touring the airport and looking for a good book. With her new book, Get Over Your Ex in Ten Easy Steps!, in hand and on her way to the checkout, a too attractive boy (Hipster Hottie) starts talking with her. He says he is picking up his girlfriend from a flight, but he pays for Charlotte’s book anyway. Just as they are about to part ways, they hear the loud voices of a couple that is just breaking up. To Charlotte’s shock, the girl is Hipster Hottie’s girlfriend who was supposed to have already broken up with her old boyfriend. Unfortunately, he arrived at the airport to surprise her with a fist full of roses, knowing nothing of her new relationship. If nothing else, this display brings back Charlotte’s pain from her own breakup.
Putting the strange episode aside, Charlotte lines up to go through security. When she gets to the front of the line, she learns that her flight is canceled and that she’ll have to stay at a nearby hotel overnight. Upset and a little scared to spend a night alone in New York, Charlotte sits down on a bench and only then realizes that the person sitting beside her is the guy that just got dumped, still holding the roses. Feeling badly for him, Charlotte starts up a conversation and learns his name is Anthony and that he lives in New York. Despite the strangeness of it all, Charlotte asks Anthony to go on a tour of New York since she doesn’t want to just sit in a hotel room alone on her last day and he doesn’t want to go home knowing he’ll have to explain why his girlfriend isn’t with him. Anthony declines, gets up, and leaves.
Having nothing else to do, Charlotte decides to go to the hotel. Being Christmas Eve and with several flights cancelled, people are having to share taxis to leave the airport. To Charlotte’s surprise, she gets put in a cab with Anthony! While they’re talking, Anthony tells Charlotte that New York is no place for a girl to wander around by herself. He also notices Charlotte’s book and realizes that they’ve both been dumped recently. Feeling badly for Charlotte and wanting to distract himself from his own misery, Anthony asks Charlotte what the first step is in her book - Do something you stopped doing because your ex didn’t like it. Following the first step, Anthony decides to take Charlotte to a pizza joint that his ex, Maya, would never go to. This is where the adventure begins!
Taking their cues from the ten step book, Charlotte and Anthony explore New York trying to get through all ten steps in the seventeen hours Charlotte has before her flight. With all the activity, they get to know each other and even adopt a puppy that they name Mistake. Although they very closely lose each other on the subway, they reconnect at 2:00am on the observation deck of the Empire State building. With their first real kiss, they both know they want to see where the relationship might lead.
With Charlotte’s departure time looming, they go back to the airport. Anthony carries Mistake in a tote bag as he and Charlotte say their final goodbyes. Charlotte will be back in New York in the summer when she starts school at Columbia, the same college Anthony attends. Although neither of them knows what might happen with the new relationship, they both want to find out.
Kiss Me in New York is a just-for-fun adventure of two young adults who are involved in what some teenagers might imagine for themselves The storyline relies heavily on suspended belief, but the feel good, happenstance of two young people who have both lost in love only to find a renewed chance at love in each other makes this novel worth the read. That the chapters are divided between Anthony and Charlotte’s perspectives gives the reader specific insights into each of the characters’ thoughts. These shifts in perspective and the detailed writing allow the reader an in-depth understanding of the characters and a view into the minds of young adults. Although this is interesting, it can, at time, slow the progression of the plot. Some of the literary devices, including similes, are sometime a bit heavy (“She looks stunned, staring at me as if she has just been asked to divide three by seventeen..."), but the comparisons are intended to be from a young adult’s perspective and, therefore, could be accepted.
Overall, Kiss Me in New York would be a fun read for a high school student looking for an alternative storyline to the usual how-to-get-over-being-dumped-from-a-relationship books. Perhaps the strongest message from this novel is one of hope - that “losing” in love is not forever, and it is important to continue the pursuit of happiness, even if it seems unlikely at the time.
Penta Ledger is a teacher-librarian at Gravenhurst High School in Gravenhurst, ON.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
|This Creative Commons license allows you to download the review and share it with others as long as you credit the CM Association. You cannot change the review in any way or use it commercially.
Commercial use is available through a contract with the CM Association. This Creative Commons license allows publishers whose works are being reviewed to download and share said CM reviews provided you credit the CM Association.
Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - October 20, 2017.
CM Home | Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive