Thursday, January 7, 2016

ARC Review: Once Upon a Kiss

Title: Once Upon a Kiss
Author: Robin Palmer
Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Source: Penguin Teen for Review
So much has happened since 1986, and Zoe Brenner is about to find out just how much.

From the author of the book that inspired the Disney original movie Geek Charming!

It's 1986 and sixteen-year-old Zoe Brenner's world revolves around Depeche Mode, Judd Nelson, exercise-obsessed parents, and her best friend Jonah. Then one day, in a freak Fun-Dip choking accident, Zoe falls unconscious, and awakes in the year 2016. So much has changed, and Zoe needs Jonah to help her make sense of it all. But in this life, Zoe is the most popular girl in school, and she soon realizes this Zoe doesn't associate with nerds like Jonah. As Zoe juggles new technology, attempts to hide her enthusiasm for poet blouses, and manages to keep her super jock boyfriend at bay, she tries to rekindle her friendship with Jonah and use her popularity for a good cause. Will she ever get back to 1986? And more importantly, does she want to?

My Review

When Once Upon a Kiss by Robin Palmer arrived on my doorstep, I didn't really know what to make of it. I'll admit that the title threw me off, and it had me thinking that the book was some sort of a fairy tale. Then I read the synopsis and I realized that it was so much more than just a modern spin on any kind of a fairy tale moment! The 1980s? Time travel to an alternate universe in the future? Heck yeah! I just knew that this book had made its way up my TBR, and I could not wait to read it.

I really enjoyed the plot of Once Upon a Kiss. Zoe Brenner is this super cool teenage girl, just living her life in 1986. She likes New Wave music, and she has a huge crush on Judd Nelson. She's also a fan of some of my favorite movies - The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. But more important that her interest in all things 80s pop-culture, she wants to run for class president so she can voice her opinions and effect much needed change at Castle Heights High School. The only problem? She's not in the popular crowd, so she doesn't really stand a chance at winning. But she's got her best friend Jonah at her side, and that's all a girl could really need, right? Then a freak accident happens, and she finds herself in 2016. She's confused, popular, and Jonah won't talk to her. Uh oh! How will she ever find her way back? Will she ever find her way back?

The cool thing about Once Upon a Kiss is that you get to meet the same characters in different centuries. In 1986, Zoe and her best friend Jonah aren't popular. They aren't even close, but they are there for each other in a brother/sister kind of way. Now you don't get to see them together like that for long because of Zoe's freak accident, but I really enjoyed seeing their platonic relationship in a few chapters. They seem like the best of friends, and they are the people that I would have been friends with in high school. But what book about high school wouldn't be complete without mentioning the school's queen bee, right? In 1986, Andrea Manson rules the school. She's at the top of the social hierarchy - most popular girl who's dating the most popular guy, Brad Bundy, and she's class president. She's also a bit of a bully, and she will stop at nothing to make sure that she lets everyone at Castle Heights know that she's in charge. 

Flash forward 30 years, and boy, have things changed! First of all, not one character has aged! That's right; it's more like an alternate universe in the future. These characters have changed in other ways, though. Zoe Brenner is no longer a nobody. She's now the queen bee of Castle Heights, and she doesn't like the person that she is in 2016. She's mean, and she bullies people around just like the 1986 version of Andrea. But instead of going along with it, Zoe wants to get back to who she was in 1986. That means shocking the whole school by talking to people in other cliques and using her new status to really try to shake things up. Her new BFF, Andrea Manson, and her boyfriend, Brad Bundy, think she's crazy! They even think she needs an intervention, and it's hilarious to watch all of this pan out. The other problem that Zoe has? Her best friend from 1986, Jonah, wants absolutely nothing to do with her, and it takes a lot of convincing just to make him see that she's really not the popular girl that everyone thinks she is.

There is a bit of a romance in Once Upon a Kiss that I think readers will enjoy. No, there's not a love triangle, and if you read the book, you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about. It does take Zoey a while to figure out her true feelings and where she belongs, but my heart swelled with happiness when everything finally fell into place. It's such a swoon-worthy moment that you won't want to miss.

There's even a little bit of diversity thrown into Palmer's Once Upon a Kiss, but I wish there was a little more. A few times during the course of the novel, Zoe talks about her religion, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that she and her family are Jewish. Zoe mentions her brother's upcoming Bar Mitzvah and the fact that he struggles with reading Hebrew, but I wish there was just a little bit more mentioned to really make this feel diverse.  

Once Upon a Kiss by Robin Palmer brings up similar feelings that someone who's seen 13 Going on 30 might remember, and I really enjoyed the book for that reason. It's just a feel-good book that's sure to make fans of romantic comedies squeal with joy. I would recommend this book to anyone who's seen and loved a John Hughes movie. (I'm not so secretly hoping that this gets optioned for screen and that Will Gluck will direct it.) I'd also recommend it to readers who are just looking for an adorable book to start the year with because that's what this is - adorable!

Robin Palmer grew up in Massachusetts and New Jersey, and after graduating from Boston University, moved to Hollywood. Starting as an assistant in the television literary department of the William Morris Agency, she quickly moved up the ranks and spent the next decade as a literary agent, producer, and television network executive at Lifetime Television, where she developed over one hundred scripts and oversaw the production of many of the network's original movies.

In 2001, she remembered that she had originally intended to spend her life either as a writer or a toll booth collector (so she could indulge her penchant for spending her days alone reading), but as there are no toll roads in southern California, she decided to give the writing thing a try. Since then, she's written everything from "To Do" lists to screenplays to essays to love letters and, of course, novels.

She currently resides in New York City.


Throwback Thursday with Erin

When Penguin Teen sent me an ARC of Robin Palmer's Once Upon a Kiss, they also asked if I'd be interested in doing a throwback post as part of my review. Ummm... How could I say no to that, right? Even though I'm not an 80s kid like Zoe (I was born in 1989), I have a few of my favorite things from the 90s to share with you!

Favorite Accessories

Tattoo Chokers
Who remembers these bad boys? I had a ton of them, and I wore one all the way into eighth grade.

Platform Shoes
Okay... so I had about five or six pairs of these, even though I was the tallest girl in my class. I just loved them, and I wore them everywhere.

Favorite Bands

Favorite Movies

I loved this movie so much that I destroyed it! Girl Power!

This is the first movie I ever saw in theaters. Apparently the Beast scared me so much that I farted on my uncle's lap. Oops!

This is the first movie I ever owned, and probably because it was the first Disney movie that I was alive for! I loved Ariel, and I still do! (Side note: the case on my VHS is the original one that has a dirty image on it. My mom never returned it. OMG!)

Throwback Pictures of Erin

Here's some pictures of me, my siblings, and friends from back in the 90s!

I think I was four years old here, and quite the fashionista. I may have had to crop this one because my little sister was in the doorway with her pants down around her ankles.

I don't really know what's going on here...

Yup! Those are Pocahontas pajamas and Pocahontas and John Smith dolls!

A family trip to a local museum. I was very into Disney's Hercules back then.

I have no idea why there is a seal statue on the shores of Lake Erie. I still haven't figured it out. Oh, and that's my sister creeping behind the seal.

This is me and my best friend Lauren. Neither of us could figure out where this picture was taken. Fun fact: We're still BFFs.

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