Tuesday 14 February 2012

REVIEW: Kiss Date Love Hate by Luisa Plaja

Random House Children's Books
2 Feb 2012

Everything's got a bit 'It's Complicated' with Lex and her friends. Tangled relationships, unrequited love and a bit of boyfriend stealing on the part of Lex's friend Gemma have left Lex feeling like her friendship group is in a bit of a mess. Then her friend George shows her a Sims-like computer game that lets you create character profiles and alter their settings so you can choose which couples end up together. The next day they find their changes are coming true in real life... 

Will Lex and George use their new power to get what they want? George could finally get workaholic Jess to notice him, and Lex could win back her ex, Matt, from evil Gemma (and get longer hair and bigger boobs at the same time). But as the game takes hold, Lex is getting distracted by bad boy Drew and both of them begin to realise that playing games with their friends' lives could lead to a lot of trouble...

Romantic comedy + cool sci-fi idea + a touch of seriousness to make you think = about a million thumbs up from me. I thought this would be perfect for a Valentine's Day post as it is heartwarming and makes you dream in a lovely way about love - but in a completely believable way. Yes, there's a touch of magic, but when the Midsummer Night's Dream wears off, it's real feelings and relationships that have been important all along. 

It is quite an appropriate day to declare that I LOVE THIS BOOK. And here are 5 reasons why:

1. Lex
Luisa Plaja has again shown her talent for inhabiting the minds of teenagers, creating characters that are far from perfect, always discovering and learning more about themselves, and who are lots of fun to read about. And who I wish were my actual friends. I loved that Lex had an attitude, made it difficult for people to get close to her and wasn't honest with herself. It made her, and her developing relationship with Drew, seem utterly real. I really like it when you have a narrator that you don't always agree with and who you are sometimes willing to do things differently - it means you get really involved with the story and care about how things turn out. And because reading about popular, perfect characters makes me ever so slightly want to VOMIT.  

2. Lex's friends. In fact, all of the other characters
It is always a good sign when you think back on a book and most of your thoughts are like this: I LOVED George. He was so nice and geeky and I loved his LOTR obsession and... Oh my god I LOVED crazy best friends Lia and Tia. They were hilar... Oh and the teachers were brilliant. So funny AARRH I LOVED Drew!

So most of my thoughts were taken up with character appreciation and daydreaming about them being my actual friends. I just like it when books are full of hilarious and occasionally tragic and very familiar faces.  

3. The game
I mostly just thought: how cool. I want to play. I also thought that when I was 15 ultimate control over everyone's love lives would have been nice. The game introduces a bit of sci-fi magic into the story, but doesn't take away from the realism. It reminded me a bit of Cecilia Aherne's THE BOOK OF TOMORROW, where a girl finds a diary that always shows her the entry for the next day. A touch of mysterious magic that in fact tells you more about the 'real' side of the story. 

There are moments when Jess and George are wondering if other characters are interested in them for real, or just because of the game - a dilemma that was going on before the game came along anyway. Lex isn't sure how Matt really felt about her, when he moved on so quickly to her friend Gemma. Real life is full of uncertainty about whether people are showing their real feelings, saying things because they should or just playing games. The magic computer game just puts all this into focus.  

4. Serious bits
I don't want to spoil the story for yet-to-be-readers, so I won't say much. But Lex feels like she's different and in a totally realistic way she glosses over and deflects you away from the reason why. There is an important message at the heart of this book about accepting who you are and about finding the people who love you because of who you are. Emotional stuff. 

5. KISS(ing), DATE(ing) and LOVE(ing)
I loved how all of Lex's friendship group had been out with each other (including 'pretend going out' in year 8). The tangledness and multiple fancying of people is completely true to life, and really emphasises the 'true love' relationships when they do come along. And when they do come along they are oh-so-good. A couple of the couples in this book would make my all-time-fave couples list, but as River Song would say, 'Spoilers'. So I will leave you with five of the very best'uns and the instruction to READ THIS BOOK if you haven't already.

1. Lizzy and Darcy (from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen)


2. Georgia and Dave the Laugh (from the GEORGIA NICOLSON books by Louise Rennison)

I spent my teenage years dreaming of laughing away on a fast camel with Dave. (By the way the pic is a cosmic horn. And a girl wearing a beard.)

3. Will and Lyra (from HIS DARK MATERIALS by Philip Pullman) 

Damn you Pullman, you broke my heart. And possibly made me spend a few hours sitting on a bench imagining for my soulmate from another world is waiting for me. 

4. Eric and Merle (from MIDWINTERBLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick)

This book is about love. And a bit of blood and Vikings. But mostly love. 

5. Tim and Daisy (from SPACED by Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes)

I know it's a TV show not a book SHHHH


  1. great review! I loved this one as well!! Such a great story and I swear Luisa is actually a 15 year old girl in secret! ;)

  2. aha - so that explains it! I think she must be! I loved this book - made me all happy and giddy!