Peter tapped on the shop window, in his hands he held two paperbacks, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby. Which one? He mouthed.
I went into Stage Kiss by M. F. Lorson expecting a guilty pleasure read that was mediocre but enjoyable. And while I had my own assumptions for the direction a book about a girl desperate to be Prom Queen would take, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the majority of the novel. Stage Kiss follows the story of Erin Armstrong, pressured by familial tradition and expectation to win the title of Prom Queen when her world, and subsequently her chances of winning, begin to crash around her as she catches one of her best friends and her boyfriend together. Suddenly it becomes necessary to not only put up a front in order to avoid being pitied by the rest of the school but also to find a new date to Homecoming as the elected Prom Queen would never be dateless.
There’s a sort of vapidness to some of the themes of the novel, but in a somewhat realistic manner that really drives home what it’s like to be a teenager concerned with the ways in which you come across to those around you. The pressures of family tradition that a parent might place on their child are also present in the fact that the women of her family have won Prom Queen and Erin is the next in line to do so. Her mother even has a frame for the photo already picked out and set upon the mantle. Erin is fairly popular at school, the sort of girl who has her hands in everything from student council to lead role in the school play. And best of all, despite her popularity, Erin never comes across as the mean girl. She may care deeply about things that won’t matter ten years down the road, but she is a genuinely kind and helpful person.
Even the betrayal of her boyfriend and best friend, though it cuts deep, is not enough to turn her cruel and bitter. Erin, of course, has her moments in which she shows how hurt she is, but at the end of the day, she is able to be happy for them and push past the ways in which they hurt her in order to continue the friendship. Unfortunately, though Lorson does fairly well in this portrayal of her main character she makes a rather glaring mistake with this plot. In fact, I believe that the most minor of changes to the breakup of Erin and her boyfriend, Nick, would have made a world of difference for this book and is literally worth nearly an entire star-point rating, what made this a three-star book rather than a four-star.
You see, Erin catches her boyfriend cheating and then, shortly afterward, he breaks up with her to be with her friend, Libby. While upset, Erin almost instantly grows more upset with the fact that he is now backing out of taking her to Homecoming. The truth is that if the cheating part were removed and it had been more a conversation in which Nick admitted his feelings for Libby, not only would Erin’s forgiveness make a heck of a lot more sense, but the book would have been much better just in general. My only other complaint is a small one, centering around the mystery of Erin’s sister that is hinted at somewhat poorly throughout the course of the book and then wrapped up far too quickly–right at the end, mind–for how much time was spent focused on it prior.
As for the rest of the book, the shining star in all of it is Peter Hunt, with whom I fell in love rather quickly. The theater teacher’s assistant and apparently long-time crush of the main character, Peter is soon enlisted by Erin to help her find the perfect prom date to help her win homecoming. As a dedicated and organized sort of guy with a hidden agenda behind his eventually agreeing to Erin’s request, Peter manages to brilliantly handle the backstage of her quest for the leading role. And let’s just say, despite the fact that if he’s the kind of guy who would go to a bookstore and buy To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby and then ask his friend’s preference, realistically those would be books that he already owns and therefore the cuteness of the moment is somewhat ruined by the titles–but, then again, the only thing I really care about here is that he’s asking her opinion on which book to read through a shop window (can I say swoon enough?)–Peter was so amazing that I fell in love with him 30% of the way into the book.
While I’m sure all of us can guess at how predictable the end of the novel is going to be–though, perhaps not as predictable as you think–I can definitely say that this is a book worth reading. And I don’t even care for contemporary romance 99% of the time. So, if you’re looking for a good one to read and you like the kind of books that I do, I really enjoyed this one, myself.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.