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Review: Kiss, Date, Love, Hate by Luisa Plaja

Author: Luisa Plaja
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Publication Date: 2 Feb 2012
Source: Review Copy
Challenge: BBC
Rating: 4/5
Synopsis from Goodreads

What if you could change your friends’ lives and loves through the settings of a computer game…?

Lex Murphy’s group of friends have all dated, hated, ignored and lusted after each other for the last few years. If only there was a way of matching people perfectly to avoid all the unrequited love, dumping and drama! Then Lex’s friend George is given a mysterious Sims-like game by his software-testing dad which involves building character profiles in the categories of Life, Looks and Love. Lex and George populate the game with avatars for all their mates, making a few ‘wishful thinking’ adjustments to the settings – and find that the next day these tinkerings have come true! But how long can this new calm, loved-up atmosphere continue?

REVIEW
The first thing I would like to say about this book is how well Luisa Plaja creates realistic teen narrative voices. This does however, mean that they are not necessarily like-able to begin with. 
Told in first person narrative from the viewpoint of Lex. I adored the Jurassic Park link to the name. Lex is very much a daydreamer, she lives inside her head and is easily distracted. I can completely relate to this – ohhh look there is a squirrel [ ; D ] Lex continually over-thinks things, she isn’t good with praise and finds numerous ways in which to alter what has been said, twisting it until it suits the way she views herself.
Friends and families are portrayed as extremes. When viewed from the outside this exaggeration of personalities enables greater insight into the relationship, making it easy to see who really does belong together. I especially adored George in all his geekiness and Drew in his bad boy pierced hotness. If only kissing had been that good when I was a teen. Believe me the kissing scenes have smoke coming from the pages. 
The way life shapes personalities provided a powerful undercurrent to the plot. Insightful narrative shows the way modern society has changed the view we have of family units, the stereotypical Mum, Dad and 2.5 children no longer exists. It is more likely to be single parents or second marriages. The revelations regarding past history of the characters and their interactions kept the pace flowing. Humorous moments and a fabulous helping of sarcasm all add to the individual characterizations. 
The first half of the book concentrates on the game building and its affect on the characters. The concept of a computer game altering aspects of real life is intriguing. If you had the ability to alter your appearance or enchant people to like you with the simple click of a mouse – Would You? It would be like the modern equivalent of waving a magic wand. I am pretty sure I would make myself slimmer, look younger and be more optimistic just as a start [ ; D ]

The second half of the book is where the revelations occur tying everything together beautifully. Showing how and when events occurred to cause the current interactions. Impeccable writing draws all the characters history together while blending it with the current plot.

One of the things that stood out for me within the story-line was the way in which people make assumptions about other people based on their looks/where they have seen them. Drew is the best example of not judging a book by its cover. 
Lex’s journey through this book is fabulously portrayed. Not only does she understand herself better; she also appreciates her friends and family in a whole new way. There is hope for everyone in the end that everything has worked out for the best and is where it is supposed to be.
Luisa has a knack of creating utterly realistic and believable characters; her teens are flawed, insular and pessimistic. Ask anyone who works with teens and they will tell you, Luisa has them pegged. The insight into the inner workings of a teens mind is both encouraging and frightening in equal measure, this is speaking as a Mother of a pre-teen. 
Another brilliant book from a brilliant author. 

Category: Reviews

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