Review: Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy SpaldingKissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding
Published by Poppy on April 7, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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two-half-stars

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist meets Easy A in this hilariously realistic story of sneaking out, making out, and playing in a band.

After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, sixteen-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they'll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook.

While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over someone's heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, who she's been obsessed with forever-His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But suddenly cute guys are popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! With their love lives going from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid realize the results of their pact may be more than they bargained for.

Amy Spalding’s debut novel The Reece Malcolm List really impressed me to the degree that I’ve been adding all of her books to my to-read shelf. Despite the recent poor PR move on Spalding’s part with the bingo card, I still wanted to read Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys), henceforth to be referred to without the parentheses because long title is long. Spalding might end up marking a square off her bingo card after this review, though. Oh well. Kissing Ted Callahan didn’t live up to Spalding’s debut, despite the fact that I really liked the premise.

In theory, Kissing Ted Callahan is such a Christina book. Best friends Riley and Reid decide that they need to up their game when they discover their band mates have been Doing It. They record updates of their progress in a notebook they call the Passenger Manifesto. The fact that Riley and Reid are completely platonic friends with absolutely zero sexual tension is fantastic. I also love the fact that Riley’s a bit more interested in dating and sex, while Reid wants to fall in love and have commitment. Overturned gender roles for the win!

Kissing Ted Callahan also is very sex positive. It highlights that sex both is and isn’t a big deal, and subtly throws in the importance of safe sex. This is all really good stuff. Reid actually tries to slut-shame Riley for the fact that she was dating three guys simultaneously and making out with all of them, but Riley doesn’t stand for that. Though Riley’s not confident about some things, she’s very certain that she has the right to date multiple people as long as she’s not official with any of them. As one would expect, that does blow up in her face a little bit, but the blame isn’t entirely put on her, and I think the blame lies more in the fact that she didn’t try to make things official when she wanted to because she was scared of putting herself out there like that.

Despite all of that awesome stuff about dating and sex, I never really engaged with this book. It was a quick, entertaining read, but I was very much not sucked into it as it went along. There’s one reason: the writing. Riley uses so! many! exclamation! points!!!! LIKE SO MANY, YOU GUYS. AND! ALSO! ALLCAPS! FOR MORE EMPHASIS!!!! This writing style does create a youthful voice, but I feel like it’s an authorial cheat. It’s easy to throw some exclamation points in there to show that the MC is experiencing feelings, but, if the writing is good, I should be able to know when major feelings are occurring without the exclamation points.

The real problem with this style though is that the voice it creates is one that I associate with someone who’d be more like 12 or 13 than 16 and a half. Riley felt like a middle school girl to me. Her narration could easily belong to an 8th grader writing in her diary. Kissing Ted Callahan straight up felt like a middle grade novel, which made the plot about sex and dating really awkward and uncomfortable. All book long, I had to keep reminding myself that Riley was 16 and this wasn’t super gross, but the voice kept making me forget.

I also feel like Kissing Ted Callahan tries much too hard to be really funny in an awkward way. If this book were a movie, it would be The DUFF or About a Boy levels of awkward. Riley YELLS at the titular Ted Callahan the first several times she gets the chance to talk to him, because her crush makes her unable to speak like a normal human. She describes herself as not incredibly attractive, but boys flock to her really easily, even Ted who she can’t speak to without YELLING STRANGE THINGS!!!

The romance itself didn’t really work for me either, because I didn’t really buy their connection. I didn’t mind so much her belief that she was in love with Ted because it felt the same as when this one classmate in eighth grade asserted that she was in love with Nick from the Backstreet Boys. The problem with Riley and Ted is that they don’t have much of anything to talk about. Their conversations are deeply stilted, and, while it gets better when she stops yelling at him, they still don’t really have a comfortable dialogue going.

There were also a host of other small issues.

  • Riley calls her parents the United Front, and they’re obviously caring, involved parents, except for the fact that they are involved only once but it doesn’t matter because she sneaks out without consequences. The parents are benevolent cardboard cutouts leaned against the backdrop.
  • Though I wanted to like Riley and Reid, I developed a deep loathing for Reid, who’s the most insecure being on the planet, loves to blame others (mostly Riley) for his failures, and pretended he wanted to adopt a disabled dog to get a girl to like him. What sort of monster can hang out with a cute, sweet dog for weeks without coming to love it? Not to mention that Reid shames Riley for dating multiple people. Reid is the patriarchy.
  • Riley gets in trouble trying to put a CD in Ted’s locker, because it won’t fit through the slats, yet Ted manages to get a mini chocolate bar into Riley’s locker. Chocolate bars, even the fun size ones, are fatter than CDs and also won’t fit through the slats? As a result, Ted must have learned her locker combination because that’s the only way that candy got in there.
  • Milo plays the tuba in band, for which Riley mentally shames him. He says he plays the tuba in marching band. No one marches tubas. They march sousaphones, a fact which any self-respecting band geek would tell someone.
  • I’m not positive, but I think everyone in this book was white, even though it’s set in LA.

Though Kissing Ted Callahan was super short (a very short 320 pages, since every other chapter is less than a page long) and quick to read, I had way too many issues with it to quite like it. I feel like the writing was so much worse than the author’s debut, and my reading more of her stuff is somewhat in jeopardy now.

Favorite Quote:

The kissing might not even mean huge new perfect things! I kissed Garrick and Milo and nothing huge or new or perfect is going on with them. Sometimes kissing is just kissing, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif taylor swift i go on too many dates

11 responses to “Review: Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding”

  1. With the several larger and minor issues you listed I think I’ll pass on Kissing Ted Callahan(pun intended). A shame that it did not live up to The Reece Malcolm List, but good to hear that the debut was better(it has been on my wish list for two years now, still haven’t bought or read it).
    Mari – Escape In A Book recently posted…Still breathing and what am I reading?My Profile

  2. Angie F. says:

    I felt exactly the same way about OMG THE CAPPPSS!!! And I loathed Reid, he was kind of an asshat.

    But I also agreed that I loved how Riley was dating multiple guys! That was great. I just wish the rest of the book had been as great as that. I wanted more lost notebook hijinks!
    Angie F. recently posted…Review: Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy SpaldingMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only who felt that way. The caps were WAY OVER THE TOP. AND THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! It just feels like such a cheat code for personality.

      And Reid was a smarmy jerk.

      This book should have been amazing. Make the writing less EXCITED!!! and make Reid remotely interesting and I would have loved this!

  3. Hannah says:

    Ha, love the gif usage.

    I saw the blurb for this one, and just knew that it would annoy me – glad I passed on it! The things you mentioned would have irked me as well.
    Hannah recently posted…Review: Kissing in America – Margo RabbMy Profile

  4. Brigid says:

    So….I have problem with using too many caps. It’s uncontrollable at this point and I might as well except that. But, if I read that in a book (I have) it would be very very awkward and I would be making fun of it for sure.

    So she just randomly yells stuff at guys she likes? Whoa. Girl has probs.

  5. I had an ARC I gave away to someone else after the bingo fiasco, but the sample I read in that Buzz Books sampler on NetGalley convinced me pretty thoroughly that it wouldn’t have been my thing anyway. Like you said, the voice was way too young for the characters (and sounded an awful lot like Amy Spalding’s own Twitter feed with the Caps Lock and exclamation points).

    Now I’m super glad I didn’t bother with the book. Reid would have resulted in me possibly kicking the book.

    • Christina Franke says:

      The bingo card thing mostly didn’t bother me, so I figured I’d still give the book a shot, since I did really like her debut novel. I feel like the writing has just gotten worse, and that’s a damn shame. I find it so puzzling when that happens.

      You definitely would have kicked Reid. The book’s message was so good, but so poorly done, and then there was Reid, the jackass.

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