By Amy Spaulding
Available now from Poppy (Hachette)
I've heard lots of great things about Amy Spaulding's first two novels, THE REECE MALCOLM LIST and INK IS THICKER THAN WATER. When I saw she had a new book coming out, I decided to read it on the strength of that buzz. Giving KISSING TED CALLAHAN (AND OTHER GUYS) a chance was a good idea.
One thing I absolutely loved about this book is that the discussions of who is cool or not felt real. There was no automatic the football captain and the head cheerleader are cool. Instead, different people perceived different things as markers of cool. Riley, the protagonist, feels like a dork and a weirdo, but her friend Reid points out to her that she's an attractive girl who has a car and is in a band and is totally out of most guys' league. There's also a nice acknowledgment that confidence can make someone seem cool, even if they play tuba in the marching band.
Why is Riley's coolness and dating league important? Because she wants to get some experience with guys. She's in a band Gold Diggers with her friends Nathan, Lucy, and Reid. They're actually pretty good, with demos circulating and gigs accumulating. But when Nathan and Lucy turn out to have a secret relationship, Riley and Reid are sent into a tailspin. They decide they're each going to seek out their own romance, and write down everything about it for each other to read in a notebook.
I liked the initial contrasts between their goals, and that they seemed to have nothing to do with gender. Riley is really focused on physical goals, but she has a specific guy in mind: Ted Callahan. Reid dreams of more of a slow-building relationship, but is willing to aim for any girl he thinks will go for him. The course of love runs interestingly for both of them, but especially Riley, who ends up kind of dating three guys at once. (She's not technically cheating on any of them, but she isn't being very honest either.) I got a little frustrated with her dithering, since she's actually pretty clear about what she wants and who she really likes.
Over all, KISSING TED CALLAHAN is a charming teen romance, particularly for fans of modern alternative music. (I did wonder how Riley affords all of the shows she goes to, especially if she's buying merch.) It's got a nice hyper-realistic vibe. Everything is a bit more than it would be in reality, but it's grounded by down-to-earth emotions and social interactions. Definitely a fun summer read.