Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Piper, Cassidy, Mei, and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. And they've always agreed on one goal: to get out of tiny Paris, Texas, and see the world. The school's foreign exchange program seems like the perfect escape: Piper will go to the original Paris; Mei will go to China; Cassidy will go to Australia; and Izzy, unable to afford the program, will stay at home. To add spice to their semester away, and to stay connected to their best friends, the girls start The International Kissing Club, a Facebook page where they can anonymously update one another and brag about all the amazing guys they're meeting. After all, these girls are traveling abroad: amazing guys abound at every turn! But sometimes fun, flirty vacation flings turn into more serious romances, and sometimes you don't return from abroad the same person you were. Will the girls' relationships-and their friendships-be able to survive?Each main character seems to embody a female high school stereotype. Piper is trendy, flirty, and boy-crazy. Cassidy is athletic and reserved. Izzy is a tree hugger. Mei is the super smart Asian girl. While the stereotypes might make the characters easy to envision, they seemed a little too forced for me at the beginning. What I did like about the characters though is that they do have to grow-up throughout the book. Each girl hits more than a few road-bumps in their travels abroad that make them reconsider what they really think/believe.
While I did love when the girls really started to grow-up, the entire premise of their club (i.e. kissing lots of boys) seemed a little out there and promiscuous for high school girls. Actually, Piper's enthusiasm for the project was a little off-putting at first and I wasn't sure I was going to like her character at all. Thankfully this book moved beyond the shallow premise and into deeper issues of personal growth and first love. I only wish that what I loved seeing in the second half of the book could have happened sooner and that we would have had the opportunity to spend more time with the girls as they continued to grow.
I think that the premise will appeal to lots of high school readers with its blend of humor, romance, and friendship. The bonds of friendship are tested and hold true, giving readers hope that there really are strong friendships that will stand the test of time, distance, bullies, and boys. While the entire book isn't a home run per se, it is definitely worth a read if you find yourself intrigued by the premise (and maybe if you loved The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants for its honest narrative on high school friendships).