BOOK REPORT for Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

Cover Story: Not So Punk Rock
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: LOL
Bonus Factors: Best Guy Friend, I'm With the Band, LA
Relationship Status: My Plus One


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Kissing Ted Callahan

Cover Story: Not So Punk Rock

The DIY style of this cover ties in with the notebook that our heroine, Riley, shares with her friend Reid, but it's a little too poppy to mesh with Riley's rock star dreams. Then again, she's not as cool as she would like to be, so the artwork is more accurate than it initially seems (especially that kiss mark—girlfriend is all about the lip action).

I'm just happy that it's not a stock photo of a guitar, because that would so happen to a YA book about a girl drummer.

The Deal:

After discovering their fellow bandmates, Lucy and Nathan, getting it on, Riley and Reid refuse to be left behind in Virgintown. They hatch a plan to help each other find love and lust via a notebook, the Passenger Manifest, in which they record helpful lists ("Places to Take Someone That Could Be Romantic") and confessions of their attempts with the opposite sex.

Riley's object of obsession is Ted Callahan, the adorkable editor of the school's underground blog, Fencing Club. But as she fumbles her way through Making Things Happen, she suddenly ends up with not just one but several boys on her hands. Meanwhile, Reid's failing pretty spectacularly, and Riley still can't bring herself to forgive Lucy for fooling around with Nathan behind her back. Everything's basically a mess...but at least there's kissing.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Riley is G-R-E-A-T GREAT. She's smart and funny, and she's super hip when it comes to music. But in spite of the fact that she's the drummer in a band, i.e. a pretty cool chick, she's completely insecure when it comes to the male species. And that just makes her more lovable and charming, especially when berating herself for being awkward/weird/freakish in front of crushes. Take, for example, this internal monologue after Ted accepts a ride from her after school.

I've been in love with him for at least five months, but he doesn't talk to me often. His words are blue sky, cutting through the clouds of our previously uncommunicative ways.

"It's no problem. I drive this way anyway." It's scary how fast this flies out of me. Stop talking, Riley. "And I never mind driving. I love driving. Ever since I got my license, it's all, if I can get in the car and go, I totally will."

Why did I say that? It isn't even true! I neither love nor hate driving.

This moment happens on the first page of the book. In other words, Riley and I became besties immediately. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Ted Callahan is nerdy and sweet, so I can see why Stephanie Perkins, as quoted on the book cover, has a crush on him. He didn't really do it for me, but since the same cannot be said for Riley, I still felt the sparks when they landed. Amy Spalding is generous with the kissing, which I appreciate, but she is a little stingy on the details. Like, there's SEX in this book, you guys, but it's all doing, not showing. (See what I did there?)

There's two other dudes in the picture, both of whom are enticing, but my favorite boy is actually Reid, who has no interest in Riley (and vice versa). More on him below.

Talky Talk: LOL

I don't mean that everyone in this book talks like they're texting. I mean, Amy Spalding literally made me laugh out loud. Numerous times. This is one of those reviews when I want to quote a thousand passages, but I'll stick with two (in this section).

Here's what happens when Riley tries to email Ted for the first time.

subject: fencing club!!
hi ted!!

Why am I using so many exclamation points!?! Delete!

subject: fencing club
dear ted,
how are you today. i'm pretty good. i'm writing to you about fencing club.

Why do I sound like he's my pen pal forced upon me from an interschool correspondence league? Delete!

It's not just Riley's freakouts that make this novel hilarious. Spalding writes in a lively, conversational style laced with quips, and she wraps even the smallest moments in wit. Here's one of my favorite scenes, which takes place after Reid has a mild breakdown at the lunch table.

"Do you want some pretzels, Reid?" Lucy holds out a little bag of Rold Gold to him.

"No, I don't want pretzels, and I don't want to be protected, and I don't want you to be nice. I'm doing great!"

Lucy and I exchange whoa-he's-deluded looks. And I take some pretzels if Reid isn't going to.

"I'm going to talk to Madison," he says, and gathers all his stuff. He has notebooks and textbooks and a Craig Thompson graphic novel and his iPod out on the table, so the gathering is a pretty extended activity. We all watch like it's a spectator sport.

I cackled (and maybe even snorted) my way through this novel in one afternoon, but don't let that fool you. There's plenty of substance in Riley's story, and her trials and tribulations strike an authentic chord that can still be heard over the din of laughter.

Bonus Factor: Best Guy Friend

It's refreshing that Riley has a guy pal who remains firmly in the Friend Zone. And it's awesome that the guy is Reid. He's dorky and earnest and ends up talking to parents at parties instead of their kids. He's also ridiculously neurotic. As described by Riley:

...Reid also gets really emotional and worked up over the tiniest incidents—like the time Lucy suggested he buy one big bottle of orange juice instead of two small bottles and he thought we all considered him financially irresponsible. 

In short, I LOVE HIM. I particularly relished his entries in the Passenger Manifest, where honesty was the (maybe not so) best policy.

Top Girls—by Reid

1. Jane Myatt
Jane is firstly really pretty. She has good taste in music (evident by The Le Butcherettes sticker on her car), she dresses cool, and I've been told she has a cat with only three legs she rescued from a shelter, which means she's a good person. Once last year I made a joke about Macbeth, and she said, "That was really funny, Reeve!" It's more important that she thinks that I'm funny than that she gets my name right.

See, I told you I would quote the book a lot Reid is the best.

Bonus Factor: I'm With the Band

I dig reading about a high school rock band, mostly because I wish I was cool enough to have been in one. (Never mind the fact that I didn't play an instrument—a tiny, insignificant detail.) And it's totally badass that Riley is the drummer.

Bonus Factor: LA

I feel like Los Angeles isn't a common setting for a YA book unless it's about Hollywood, so it was fun to experience it simply as Riley's neighborhood.

Casting Call:

Olivia Cooke as Riley

Devon Bostick as Reid

Ansel Elgort as Ted

Relationship Status: My Plus One

Book, you just earned yourself a permanent spot on my arm, because you're the life of the party. You crack me up like nobody's business, yet our conversation isn't limited to superficial banter. Thanks to your grounded sense of reality, your humor is made all the more effervescent, so much so that I wouldn't even need champagne to stick around with you at a shindig. (And that, by the way, is a huge compliment.)

Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys) is available now.