[BLOG TOUR] 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen

17 First Kisses
by Rachael Allen
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: June 17th 2014


No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.

Until Claire meets Luke.

But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.

With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.

In her moving debut, Rachael Allen brilliantly captures the complexities of friendship, the struggles of self-discovery, and the difficulties of trying to find love in high school. Fans of Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, and Stephanie Perkins will fall head over heels for this addictive, heartfelt, and often hilarious modern love story.

17 FIRST KISSES Excerpt – Claire’s 3rd Kiss and also the scene where the friendship between Claire and Megan begins

Kiss #3
7th grade
Sometimes you have to take the flying leap. Swallow your fear. Kiss that boy you’ve been thinking about every night for the past month. I don’t have the luxury of wading into the shallow end by degrees. Ryan Bond is moving to Wisconsin tomorrow. In less than 24 hours, he’ll be riding away in a moving van, and I’ll never know what could have been.
He’s one of the only cute guys at our school who doesn’t have a girlfriend. And there’s a reason none of the girls in 7th grade are stepping up to fill the vacancy: Chessa. His 14-month-younger little sister. She’s always been defensive about anyone liking him because she’s had girls use her as a way of getting close to him in the past. But when someone started a rumor that Chessa only got picked for the Crownies because the older girls like Ryan, something inside Chessa snapped. She decreed vengeance on anyone in our grade who would dare have a crush on him, and one time, when Amanda Bell passed him a note in the hallway, Chessa ripped the note into tiny pieces and sprinkled them over Amanda’s lunch. She even did the thing where she pointed two fingers at her eyes and then pointed them at Amanda.
So, if Chessa ever found out I go on an imaginary date with her brother every Saturday morning, I’d probably wake up with a horse head in my bed.
I lace up my sneakers and, just like I have for the past six Saturdays, I take off running down the quarter mile loop at the park. I wonder if he’ll be here today. It is his last day before he moves. But it’s also our last run and I hope that means as much to him as it does to me.
I’m twitchy as I fly past crackling pine trees, hoping every sound will turn out to be his footsteps behind me on the path. That he’ll pull up beside me and grin as he shoots past. That’s how it happened that first Saturday anyway. And I watched him run and I thought about it and then I pulled up and passed him with a grin of my own. We went on like that until we were both all out sprinting and collapsed, laughing, at the finish line. The next Saturday, I ran at 10 am again, hopeful, but not really expecting anything. I got the biggest butterflies when Ryan fell into step behind me.
            We did it the Saturday after that. And the next. And the next. And I feel like there’s this connection between us even though we’ve never even spoken to each other except to yell “Last lap!” before the beginning of our all out sprint race. Every week, I would tell myself “if he shows up today, it means he really likes me. This week I’ll do something to show him how I feel.” But every week, I chickened out.
I plod through my run, feeling more dejected with each lap but still refusing to admit to myself that he isn’t coming. I’m almost done and he still isn’t here yet. As I’m making the curve past the parking lot, I hear what I’ve been waiting for – the magical thump of footsteps against packed dirt. I peek over my shoulder and start to yell “Last lap!” only to realize the person behind me is an older woman sporting hot pink legwarmers. She gives me a dirty look as she power-walks past.
He didn’t come.
I walk home with my head down. I’ve probably been imagining this whole thing, probably—
There, across the street, is Ryan Bond, holding a cardboard box and trying to wave at the same time and nearly dropping everything in the process. He is as adorable as it gets. I flit onto his front lawn, drawn to him like a moth to a bug zapper. He sets the box down and a football bounces over the side and rolls to a stop in front of the McQueen’s bushes next door. He doesn’t move to go get it.
“I’m sorry I didn’t make our run today.”
Our run. I love the way it sounds when he says it. It means he did want to be there.
“That’s okay. I know you guys are really busy.” I glance at the mostly full moving van in their driveway. “I can’t believe you’re really leaving tomorrow.”
“Me neither.”
He takes a step closer. I wait, hoping something will happen, like maybe he’ll declare his undying love for me. But it’s like every other Saturday together – neither of us makes a move even though I feel like our shy glances at each other have to mean something. If one of us doesn’t act soon, we’re going to miss our moment again and this time we won’t have another. Ryan coughs and stares at the cracks in the cement. It’s not going to be him.
So maybe it has to be me. I take in his sun-bleached hair and the little gap between his front teeth for what may very well be the last time and take a deep breath. I am standing at the top of the high dive scared senseless and I know I will regret it forever if I don’t jump. So I do. Well, not literally, but I place my hand lightly on his shoulder and plant a soft kiss on his cheek. I’m struck by how warm his skin is to my lips. I mean, I’m sure he’s 98.6 like any other human, but between the sun and the heavy lifting, he feels warmer. Before I can ponder the mysteries of his thermal regulation any further, I hear a voice say,
“What are you doing?”
Chessa stands in the doorway, peering at us through narrowed eyes. My first instinct is to vault over the bushes and sprint until I reach the state line. She slinks closer and I scan the perimeter for sharp objects.
“Hey, Chessa,” he says.
Her features rearrange themselves so she looks almost innocent. “Hey. What are you guys talking about?”
Ryan’s cheeks turn a little pink. “Nothing. Just the move and stuff.”
“Yeah, I’m really gonna miss all my friends,” she says with a dramatic sigh. “That reminds me. I really need to talk to Claire. Do you mind?” The smile she flashes us is all sweetness and light.
“No, that’s fine.” He turns back to me while Chessa shoots menacing looks over his shoulder. “Bye, Claire,” he says, giving me a little wave and disappearing into the house with his box.
She waits until he’s gone and then she pounces. “Why were you talking to him?”
So she didn’t see me kiss him. I might actually live to see my 13th birthday.
“I, um, I—”
She continues to hover over me like some sort of jungle predator.
“I said, why were you talking to him?”
My brain cells fire feebly. If I don’t spit out an excuse soon she’ll go all release-the-kraken on me. She reaches into her pocket, no doubt for a set of brass knuckles. Why can’t I think straight right now?!
“Calm down. She was just returning a football,” says a voice that turns out to belong to Megan McQueen.
Megan?! Holy crap, these girls are like velociraptors; ones I didn’t even know were there are swooping in from the sides.
She tosses the football to me with a surprisingly good throw for someone with a French manicure.
“Yeah. Football,” I say.
Chessa gives me one last lingering glare before saying, “I’ll give it to him for you.” When the door closes behind her I can finally breathe again.
“Thanks,” I say, leaning against a nearby pine tree for support. “You totally just saved my life.” I can’t even believe she did it. She’s much closer to Chessa than she is to me. I wonder why she would--
“No problem,” she says.
It’s then that I realize I’ve never seen Megan McQueen look so sad. She’s always the center of attention and she’s always smiling. I suspect she even Vaselines her teeth. But today she is sitting on her patio with her back to her house and her knees tucked against her chest. Her eyes are the kind of bright that means she’s thinking about crying but wants to tough it out.
            “How come you’re sitting out here by yourself?”
            She shrugs. “I just felt like it, all right?”
I sit down beside her.
“You look kind of sad. Are you sure everything’s okay?”
“No.” She shakes her head. “My parents have friends over for brunch, and they brought their obnoxious, smart kid, and they’re all talking about science and art and politics, and there’s so much witty banter it makes me want to throw something. They were talking about the possibility of an HIV vaccine, and I was sick of just sitting there like a slug, so I said I’d be scared to get the AIDS vaccine because I heard it had weak versions of the AIDS virus in it and I’d be worried about getting AIDS. And everyone stopped talking and they all looked at me funny like they were trying not to laugh and finally my brother was like, ‘Megan, you know all vaccines have weak and dead versions of viruses in them, right? That’s how vaccines work.’” Her eyes tear up and she presses the heels of her hands against them. “I’m not stupid. I just don’t know everything about everything the way they do. I’m not going back in there.”
I’m trying to decide whether to pat her on the back when there’s a faint beeping from inside the house.
“Crap. My soufflé!” She grimaces. “I guess I am going back in there.”
She darts into the kitchen, not even bothering to close the door behind her. A minute later, she’s back with a round white dish bulging with what looks like a very puffy chocolate cake sprinkled with powdered sugar.
“It’s my best soufflé yet,” she says. Her eyes are still red, but at least she’s smiling now.
She sits back down beside me and places the dish in between us on a pot holder. Handing one spoon to me, she breaks the top of the soufflé with another and pours on a chocolate-y looking sauce.
“Well, go on. Try it.”
I start to dip my spoon in, but hesitate. “Isn’t this the dessert for your parents’ brunch?”
“It’s okay. There are three more inside. They’ll only stay puffy like that for a few more minutes, and after they fall, they don’t look as cool, but people who think I’m dumb don’t deserve the splendor of a perfect soufflé.”
I spoon up a bite. Holy unbelievable goodness. If clouds were made out of chocolate, this is what they would taste like.
“Oh my gosh. It’s amazing. Did you really make this?”
She grins. “Yep.”
“Wow. I had no idea you did stuff like that.” Oops. That came out harsher than it was supposed to.
“You mean stuff that’s not cheerleading?”
I nod.
“It’s okay. Most people don’t.”
Megan digs in too and we eat until we’re scraping the bottom of the ramekin.
“So, we should do stuff like this more often.”
“Steal food from your parents’ social events?”
“Ha-ha. I mean, hang out.”

Before today, if you had told me Megan McQueen would want to hang out with me and I would want to say yes, I’d have said you were crazy. But to my surprise, I actually find myself saying, “I’d like that.”

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Rachael Allen lives in Atlanta, GA where she's working furiously on her PhD in neuroscience. When she's not doing science or writing YA, you can find her chasing after her toddler and her two sled dogs. Her debut YA novel 17 FIRST KISSES, is forthcoming from Harper Teen. Rachael may or may not have had 17 first kisses...luckily she doesn't kiss and tell.

Win (1) Signed Copy of 17 First Kisses + Swag, + an ARC of I Will Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (US Only)

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