When the lights go out at a Georgia high school football game, Macy Atwood finds herself in the arms of a boy who kisses her senseless – but is gone by the time the lights come back on. All she knows is that there was something special – and oddly familiar – about her mystery kisser. Noah Granger, Ridgedale’s resident bad boy and newest transfer student, has no problem taking credit for the kiss, but Macy can’t shake the feeling that he’s lying. Especially since a photograph of Macy and former star football player Joel Hargrove resurfaced online moments before the blackout, a not-so random reminder of how hard she fell for Joel last year. And how doing so ultimately sent her lifelong friendships with Meredith Kopala and Ben Collins up in literal smoke. Soon junior year’s wounds begin to reopen as Macy realizes the events that unfolded are somehow tied to her mystery kisser. Discovering how means finally facing what really went wrong with Meredith, Ben, and Joel – and finding out what Noah is covering up. But the closer Macy gets to figuring it all out, the more she starts to worry that the boy who kissed her in the dark and the boy who is stealing her heart might be two very different people.
A Kiss in the DarkFeatured
Macy is a likable, layered character and her narration flows easily. Even when my frustration mounted at how these characters refused to communicate, it was simply too darn readable to put down. Her two years of worries about how homecoming will go are both entirely reasonable for who she is and very realistic for where the story is set. As I learned when we happened to visit my small-town-Georgia-living grandparents the same weekend that the homecoming dance and game was being held, I got to see how enthusiastic local students were about it.
It also makes a strong effort in regards to representation! We’ve got plenty of characters of color, queer kids, and disabilities like multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis are mentioned in passing because characters’ relatives live with those diseases. Noah, one of her three love interests, is a quarter Comanche! Admittedly, that’s according to his great-grandfather and he makes no mention of having tribal membership with the Comanche Nation. White families will make stuff up like that sometimes.
Really, I like Macy too much to want her with any of her three possible love interests. Readers will figure out very, very quickly who her mystery guy is, but I’ll leave him nameless for this review.
WHAT LEFT ME WANTING:
Anyway, Mystery Kisser doesn’t deserve her. The sole reason they’re not together earlier in the book is because he keeps throwing tantrums and refusing to just talk to Macy about why he’s mad. It goes like this: she got blackout drunk, did something with him, and he treats her as though she remembers when he very well knows she doesn’t. He could clear that up with her so quickly that the scene wouldn’t even be long enough for a short story, but his refusal to talk drags the book out a long time. The handful of times he actually tries to clear it up, he takes any outside interruption as though Macy is personally insulting him when she has no control over what interrupted them.
Communication is a vital part of any romantic relationship. When you and your partner can’t or won’t communicate about either person’s problems or feelings, things are almost certain to go down in flames. Macy is too good for a guy who still acts like a child.
Further worsening the problem, almost every single conflict is the result of a misunderstanding or refusal to communicate. Macy fails to ask the right questions or the person she’s talking to completely shuts down. It’s not an unrealistic source of conflict; but it’s the only source of conflict in A Kiss in the Dark, breeding a world of frustration that might make you put down the book if you’re less than invested in Macy.
Toward the end, some of the characters are talking and they make very valid points about being openly queer in a Southern state like Georgia. That’s a pretty good reason for some of these characters to clam up: they can’t be sure the person they’re talking to is homophobic. However, I have this to say:
Don’t turn the reveal of a queer character’s sexual identity into a twist. Our identities are not a twist to shock people with.
As frustrating as it is compulsively readable, A Kiss in the Dark is a difficult book to describe and recommend to someone, but it sure made me miss my home state even though I’ve always been glad we don’t live there. Just avoid the Albany area of Georgia altogether, okay?
*Noticeable attempts at representation