November 10, 2014

Kissing Frogs: Blog Tour

by Alisha Sevigny
Fierce Ink Press
978-1-927746-66-0
231 pp.
Ages 12+
For release November 18, 2014

According to a myriad of fairy tales, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, though Kissing Frogs protagonist Jessica seems to be convinced she's already met him in gorgeous Miles. Sadly it explains why she's failing Grade 12 biology, having missed a lot of those classes to spend time with him. Guess it was worth it to claw her "way up out of Geeksville and into the realm of the Socially Acceptable" (pg. 20) Except now she has to give up on a trip to South Beach with Miles and her other uber-popular friends, and instead join her biology teacher, Mr. A., and the conservation group on a trip to Panama to help some endangered frogs and complete a make-up research project.

It's evident to her trip mates that Jess would rather be elsewhere and, as they had needed to fundraise to take part in this amazing learning opportunity, there's some animosity towards her as a last-minute addition, especially from two snarky girls, Chrissy and Kiki. Moreover, she's surprised (shocked?) to learn that a former middle-school friend, Travis Henley, who'd teased her relentlessly, calling her Messy Jessie or Princess, is also on the trip, though he'd known her as the brainiac she was before she'd reinvented herself.  Other kids rounding out the group are a quiet girl Harp; Juan, a short funny guy who is friends with Travis; and Steven a.k.a. Shaggy.

While Jess vacillates between her new popular self (and desperately tries to connect with Miles and her friends) and the smart girl who'd dreamed of going to Berkley (and desperately wants the others to know she's neither mean nor an idiot), she draws the attention of Enrique, the very handsome son of the villas' owners, while Travis insists on taking her on non-dates to prove he's not the same annoying guy she'd known.

Photo by Brian Gratwicke. Retrieved from
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Atelopus_zeteki1.jpg
The emphasis for the school group may be the conservation of those species whose very existence is endangered, if not already extirpated, but Jess herself recognizes that the potential loss of her true self is not dissimilar to the plight of the golden frog.  She is willing to give up on university in favour of her new friends and popularity, not unlike the choices Panama has made in favour of growth and westernization: on the surface, very attractive, but the repercussions may be unpredictable, disastrous, and permanent.  Should she maintain her status as the popular girl, who has a gorgeous boyfriend and friends and doesn't care about university, or rejuvenate her smart self, who works hard and shows compassion and understanding for others, frogs and humans alike? Strangely, her mother prefers the former while her academician father would prefer her to be true to herself.
"You should just make sure that the people you give up your dreams for are worth it," he said finally, looking back at the computer screen. "We shouldn't have to compromise who we are for others." (pg. 71)
Alisha Sevigny has written a light and breezy YA novel whose only angst is that which the teens experience as they try to navigate through the treacherous dating roads of not knowing how to act around those they may be interested in.  Getting a first boyfriend or girlfriend, or perhaps the first one that really matters, is scary, especially if you're not sure who you are yourself.  Jess may have reinvented herself but it's clear that, without her supporting cast, the role doesn't quite fit her.  Alisha Sevigny certainly gets that right, demonstrating that it's easier to just be yourself.  So you trip a little bit and skin your knees here and there.  In the end, you're able to pick yourself up and know which way the role is taking you without becoming a farce or a tragedy. At the trip's onset, Jess' attitude indicated that she thought she was going to be stuck with a bunch of unattractive frogs in Panama, leaving her true prince, Miles, behind.  Thankfully, with sufficient time and a fresh perspective, it's amazing how cute those frogs can turn out to be.  Spoiler alert: happy ending!

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Check back tomorrow for my interview with Kissing Frogs author Alisha Sevigny.

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