Christina Meredith's "Kiss Crush Collide" is about Leah, a teenage girl who seems to have it all. She's beautiful girl who's at the top of her class in high school; she comes from a good family, has two sisters, and would never have to work a day in her life if she didn't want because her parents have amassed more than enough wealth than they apparently know what to do with.
But Leah feels trapped. Her boyfriend, Shane, is someone her mother wants her to date; while Shane is on the football team, is good-looking, and is presentable, he doesn't understand Leah at all. (That they have no chemistry together is obvious to an adult reader, but Leah finds it mystifying. Understandable in context, to be sure.) So when she meets a young man she initially calls "Porter" and feels such chemistry that the two make out on what amounts to their first date, she doesn't know what to do with herself.
And that's not all; her sisters, Yorke and Frederique (called "Freddie") are also beautiful, bright, and have all sorts of accomplishments. Yorke was the social butterfly who's about to get married at the age of 19 after one year of college, while Freddie is studying for a year abroad (in France) and has a boyfriend her parents barely approve of, one that they (and Yorke, but perhaps not Leah) want Freddie to dump before she goes overseas. We find that Freddie had to work really hard to get her year abroad, as their mother seems to have one and only one path she wants her daughters to tread -- the one Yorke apparently is on -- but with patience and forethought, Freddie did manage to win through and will have her year abroad. This is the only sign that perhaps Leah, too, can rebel in small ways and make her will be felt.
Over the course of this novel, Leah finds out that the young man who's set her on fire isn't really "Porter;" instead, he's John Duffy, Junior (the reason for the confusion was that Duffy's job is parking cars, thus why he's called "porter.") His father is the resident golf pro, which means Duffy isn't in the same social stratosphere as Leah; this is something that her mother cares about so strongly that Leah tries to keep it a secret, and that secret complicates her life enormously in ways she hadn't previously anticipated.
Ultimately, what "Kiss Crush Collide" comes down to is simple: should you follow your heart and do what you think is right, even if your parents don't approve? Or should you blindly listen to your parents and assume they know what's right? As this is a YA novel, and a romance, it's reasonably obvious Ms. Meredith is going to choose the former, but the way in which Meredith does so is intriguing, smart, and different.
I liked "Kiss Crush Collide" a great deal, but felt it fell a bit short of a five-star debut, mostly because I figured out the plot a whole lot sooner than Leah (the main character) did, and partly because Leah's internal monologue doesn't often descend into strong emotions because apparently even there, she feels constrained by circumstances into being what she truly isn't. That being said, this is a very good debut novel, and I look forward to whatever Meredith writes next.
Four stars, recommended for readers over age fourteen.