Review: Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman

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

Review: Kissing Max Holden by Katy UppermanKissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman
Published by Swoon Reads on August 1, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository

Kissing Max Holden was a terrible idea...

After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn't himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help him, but she doesn't know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn't let him kiss her. But she can't resist, and when they're caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it'll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.

With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?

Swoon Reads has been haunting my life since it first began a couple of years ago. For every nine atrocious books, there’s one really excellent one that means I will never ever quit Swoon Reads. Kissing Max Holden is one of those; it’s so good that I won’t be able to stop reading these. Upperman brings the shippiness and also some really intense family feels. Kissing Max Holden is a solid, skillfully executed contemporary romance.

Kissing Max Holden is one of those books that I really wouldn’t have expected to like, because, while it’s tropey as hell, it’s not using my favorite tropes. Max and Jillian have the whole bad boy/good girl thing going, as well as friends to lovers. On top of that, Max has a girlfriend for a lot of the book, and they’re sneaking around. But somehow, this book really, really worked for me. That’s the magic of good fiction right there.

So, Max, he’s well…kind of a gigantic mess. He and Jillian were best friends as kids, but they’ve been distant since his father’s stroke. Though his dad survived, neither he nor Max has been the same since. Max was super close to his dad, and Max doesn’t know how to live in this new world where his gregarious father is now in a wheelchair and needs assistance to feed himself. Max reacted to this in the absolute worst way possible: getting drunk, acting up, and fully committing to his toxic girlfriend Becky.

When Max shows up at her window drunk, Jillian lets him in. Things happen and oops they make out. Jillian really doesn’t know what the fuck to feel about any of it, and Max doesn’t really either. Basically, there’s this absurd amount of physical chemistry between them that hadn’t been there before, and they accidentally keep kissing each other.

While I absolutely do not condone cheating, I do find that, now that I’m older, it doesn’t really bother me in YA anymore in some situations. I mean, I’m 30, and they’re actual babies in their first relationships so like they’ll be fine. And, as the book says, they do both feel remorse over their actions, and they’ve learned from what they did. Also, Becky’s the worst; she still doesn’t deserve to be cheated on, but that relationship wasn’t going to last anyway.

Upperman handles the cheating in a nice way by juxtaposing it against an adult cheating plot line. Technically, this part’s going to be spoilery, but it was pretty obvious from the start, so I’m not spoiler tagging. Jillian’s dad is cheating on his pregnant wife. Over the course of the book, Jillian finds out, and she really questions her own behavior. This really highlights the difference in scale between Max’s cheating and Jillian’s dad’s. Teen relationships are much lower stakes; adult relationships impact children and have legal ramifications.

With age, I’ve gotten more forgiving of teens for their mistakes, but I have absolutely no sympathy for shit parents. I never had much, and I think it’s diminishing as I grow older myself. I want to take Jillian’s dad out with a dough hook. View Spoiler » He is the worst, and he doesn’t seem all that sorry. Fuck him.

The strongest element of the book is the ridiculous chemistry between Max and Jillian. It’s just super absurd how much tension there is between the two of them constantly. There’s this scene where they’re sharing a beanbag chair, and it’s so intense but like it’s just a beanbag chair. I absolutely couldn’t put this book down because of it.

Actually, given the massive chemistry and the cheating, you would think this would be a super unhealthy relationship, but it’s really surprisingly not. I like that Jillian eventually takes a stand on the cheating and that she refuses to promise anything until he’s making better life choices. I also like that Max, for all that he seems like this bad boy, is really sensitive and refuses to be a secret just because Jillian’s scared to deal with her own shit. They help each other get through tough times and work towards better mental health. I don’t know if they’ll last forever like they hope to (it’s so cute that Max wants to be with her forever, even if they are babies), but I’m rooting for them.

Good job, Swoon Reads! Your fourth really excellent book! Keep it up, and stop with the terrible trap ones, pls!

Favorite Quote:

“I’m not sure regret absolves bad choices.”

“Maybe not, but it helps you grow. And when it’s genuine, it lets the people you wronged know that, deep down, you care.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

4 responses to “Review: Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman”

  1. Leah says:

    I also have a hard time caring about cheating like this in YA. However, this stretches over to a lot of YA problems. If it’s well written, it will be compelling but I just find myself rolling my eyes at a lot of them. I’m glad this book was one of the good ones!

    • Christina Franke says:

      Excellent point. Love triangles and instalove, for example, can be done well; it’s just tricky to pull them off. That goes for cheating too. I think it works here because of a) the chemistry and b) the fact that the guy doing the cheating was clearly going through some things and it wasn’t a normal sort of behavior for him.

  2. “Your fourth really excellent book” hahaha I SO feel this! And I will have to check this out! I overlooked it because of the cheating but what you said about being an adult reader and them being baby teenagers really does make sense. Plus I’m all for character chemistry.
    Morgan @ The Bookish Beagle recently posted…Review: All The Crooked SaintsMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’m just so frustrated! Almost every Swoon Reads book has an amazing shippy premise, and they fail to deliver, and like if Domino’s had this record, they would be out of business.

      I think you’ll probably like it, Morgan! It’s worth a try!

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