Antonia Lucia Labella has two secrets: at fifteen, she’s still waiting for her first kiss, and she wants to be a saint. An official one. Seem strange? Well, to Antonia, saints are royalty, and she wants her chance at being a princess. All her life she’s kept company with these kings and queens of small favors, knowing exactly whom to pray to on every occasion. Unfortunately, the two events Antonia’s prayed for seem equally unlikely to happen. It’s not for lack of trying. For how long has she been hoping to gain the attention of the love of her life – the tall, dark, and so good-looking Andy Rotellini? Too long to mention. And every month for the last eight years, Antonia has sent a petition to the Vatican proposing a new patron saint and bravely offering herself for the post. So what if she’s not dead?
Thanks to EK for the book!
Fun / Notable ARC Tidbit:
I loved how nice this ARC was. Way better quality than most I've received, resembling an actual trade paperback rather than a cheap reading version of the book. FSG rocks that way. =)
Ah, y’all, like Leaving Paradise, this is another one of those books I don’t know how to grade. Because, see, it, too, is flawed—but it’s also readable and, above all, enjoyable. (More so than Leaving Paradise, by the by.)
There’s this girl, Antonia Lucia. She’s fifteen, though it never feels like it—instead, it feels like she’s a supposed fifteen-year-old a thirteen-year-old who reads up can easily step into and relate and feel more mature. Which is actually what I think is this book’s selling quality—tons of girls want to read up nowadays (I was only eleven when I read Gossip Girl: A Novel) and this book, by portraying a main character who’s older than the audience will probably be, and is relatively innocent, provides a tame and—dare I say it?—productive read.
Actually, I found some parallels between this book and the Jessica Darling books, the first two (Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings) to be specific.
Jessica is in perpetual freak out mode over the prospect of staying a virgin forever.
Antonia is worried she’ll never get kissed.
Jessica’s conflicted love interest is male-slut Marcus, who’s been with countless girls.
One of Antonia’s prospects is Michael, a guy who’s known to kiss lots of girls.
Jessica and Marcus became friends and right when she was about to lose her virginity to him in the first book, she got freaked out and cut off all contact with him for the next year and a half (which are covered in the second book) because she didn’t want to be “just another donut”.
Antonia and Michael develop a relationship in the summer after seventh grade (if I remember correctly). Right when school’s about to start, Michael, despite his public playboy tendencies over the summer, wants to take their relationship to another level. She cuts him off right when they’re about to kiss (this all in a flashback sequence) because she didn’t want to be “just another girl he’s kissed”.
Suffice it to say, I’m a big Jessica Darling fan and don’t mind at all seeing similar traces of it in other books, given you don’t go all Kaavya Viswanathan on Ms McCafferty’s idea. That said, while it was heartwarming seeing Michael still try to win Antonia over whereas Marcus didn’t Jessica, the male slut aspect to his personality was unfounded. I mean, with Marcus, it worked well—we could see the before and after.
Now, with Michael, I as the reader was constantly told he’d made his way around the block. But through the entire progression of the story, he never so much as looked at another girl—he only sort of hinted at making moves on Antonia’s cousin when Antonia herself would get all up on Andy, her dream boy’s, face. It was so obvious a jealousy ploy that Antonia had to be, like, twelve to fall for it. (See, she is depicted as younger than her established age.)
Oh, and Andy. Jesus, whatever the girl saw in that boy goes right over my head. He’s hot—but that’s it. People who like and dislike Edward Cullen alike would have a problem understanding why Antonia was hung up on him. Nothing to do with him made any sense either: He up and started groping Antonia for god knows what reason we’re never explained at six AM on her family’s store’s storage closet when she goes down there to fetch her mom some flour. Boys are horny, I’ll give them that, but stealing second when her nun of a mother is upstairs? A boy brought up in an Italian family himself? Not even kissing her properly first before going for the glands? And we get no reasons for this later on, did I mention that?!
This is why I submit he was a useless character—a plot device to elongate the Antonia and Michael subplot further. And this is this novel’s the deserved C-grade WTF.
Oh, and for people worried this is too religious or whatnot: it’s not. If anything, it’s the opposite. Antonia’s Catholic but she’s really only fascinated by the saints—everything else is your typical my-mom-and-her-crazy-holier-than-thou-ideas disdain. I mean, she’s not nasty about it—but she kind of dismisses the whole YOU MUST BE HOLY PURE CHASTE idea her mom pushes upon her as you would expect a normal teenage girl.
So, yeah, there are flaws. But I enjoyed the novel, and I really do think parents or librarians or teachers or even teens looking for a good read-up novel should give this a shot—everything revolves around kissing, as benign as that is, when many other novels tweenies pick up will fixate on sex and all that good stuff.
(Not that I think it’s beneficial to deny them novels that touch on those subjects. But, like, Gossip Girl doesn’t do it productively—picking something more sensible and tasteful would do the trick. AND reading a tame novel once in a while *eyes tweens and teens knowingly* doesn’t hurt, either.)
Edited to add: I do not mean to say this novel is immature. While it is definitely not super serious, I think it serves as a nice middle ground chameleon for teens both young and upper-age.