The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor
Bettina Vasilis can hardly believe it when basketball star Brady Cullen asks her out, and she just about faints when her strict father actually approves of him.
But when school starts up again, Brady changes. What happened to the sweet boy she fell in love with? Then she meets a smoldering guy in his twenties, and this “cowboy” is everything Brady is not—gentle, caring, and interested in getting to know the real Bettina.
Bettina knows that breaking up with Brady would mean giving up her freedom—and that it would be inappropriate for anything to happen between her and Cowboy. Still, she can’t help that she longs for the scent of his auto shop whenever she’s anywhere else.
When tragedy strikes, Bettina must tell her family the truth—and kiss goodbye the things she thought she knew about herself and the men in her life.
Leslie Connor has written a lyrical, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about family, romance, and the immense power of love.
Publishes in US: June 24th 2014 by Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: YA Contemp
Source: Harper Teen via Edelweiss
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I wanted to read The Things You Kiss Goodbye because Bettina's tragedy caught my attention, as well as the change in Brady and what sparked that. So, I've gotta say it was a little darker than I expected, and maybe I should have known that from the synopsis, but the cover still makes it look a little lighter and summery. Not that I mind darker but others might not, so figured I would throw that out there.
We got right into the drama after a little prologue, which I didn't really understand why it was there. It gave a date and then it went to chapter one, and I don't feel like it added much to the story, and I would have been fine with just starting at Chapter one.
We get a pretty good sense of Bettina, that her family was very traditional greek and strict and she was rebelling against it. She didn't quite fit in at school especially after her best friend, fellow dancer and leader in meeting new people and stretching their boundaries moved away. So I could see how she would be vulnerable and that Brady would seem as wonderful. And I did like him at first. I felt like things were a little rushed from saying hello to their carefree summer of dating and chaste kisses. Brady actually gets her dad's approval and then he convinced Bettina to join cheerleading to be at his games and so they can spend more time together.
I think that the shift we see in Brady was rushed. That one second they have a close and cute romance and then a switch flips. Maybe it is because we get it from Bettina, but I think that the warning signs are still there for the reader and I wanted to know more about what sparked the change in Brady. Why he was suddenly distant from her when he did revere her, and then the huge jump in their physical involvement. Of course I began to dislike him the more and more he became like a bully. I think that it was important that this showed that physical abuse doesn't always have to be a smack in the face--he hurt her hand, caused her to trip, pulled her hair, and then wrote it all off as he was teasing her and playing around.
What got to me though is how Bettina stayed in it. She knew it was an abusive relationship and she shouldn't let him go on with it. But she felt stuck. Her parents were strict and she used him in order to keep getting to get out of the house.
Things with Cowboy... Well, I think that in itself should have been the story. Instead of adding in Brady and the abuse, I think that she had enough material to just focus on Cowboy. The love triangle bugged me and so did the cheating, because she obviously had feelings for him while she was with Brady. Anyways, I liked that everything started slow and innocent. Even with the age difference, that didn't bother me. He was careful and he saw her for who she was. He called her Beta and they enjoyed each other's presence. Bettina felt like she could be herself around him, and that he understood her. He has his own back story that I think could have been elaborated on, and then the questions that were left unanswered at the end... I so wish that we could have had those answers... But since we don't I had to take rating down some.
Though there were some pretty hot kisses between Bettina and Cowboy, I liked how their friendship evolved into more. It wasn't just bam, I see you, we speak and I love you. Sure there was some serious attraction going on, but that doesn't and shouldn't equal love.
But I like where they left Bettina. Branching out, learning to stand up for herself, and then with her family adjusting and accepting that they are her parents and she has to do her part in the family and can't make all the decisions herself. The way that Bettina and her mother ended up having a lot in common and finally bridged their relationship was also good to see. Her friendships with Tony and Bonnie also changed a lot from the beginning to where she finally was okay letting others in a little more and realizing that Brady, nor any other person should make decisions for her or force her into things.
Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was Bettina with Tony's nonna Regina. She is a fiesty old lady, and so blunt about everything. Seeing Bettina get used to her personality and then slowly opening up to her was nice. It was an unexpected friendship for her, and a source of comfort to one another.
The ending.... It was sad and it was powerful. Bettina had to go through something so hard, and she didn't have answers for why and how, and didn't know how to move on. I think that it was a perfect picture of grief, an example that I hadn't quite seen played out yet, and I think that is so important to show that everyone copes with tragedies differently and how they handle it and move on is varied. I know that Bettina didn't get the answers she wanted, and maybe that is why we didn't either, that shows how it is realistically. But still... It was hard. It felt incomplete to me and I feel like maybe the tragedy was just a simple way out instead of having to deal with the issues that it involved.
My question to you, my lovely readers:
Have you ever had a friend or boyfriend change in a huge way?