Title: The Things You Kiss Godbye
Author: Leslie Connor
The Things you Kiss Goodbye really threw me for a loop. I was not expecting to feel such strong emotions as I read. Bettina’s story filled me with happiness, dread, and hope. Don’t read the synopsis for this book and expect a surface level love triangle. That’s not what you’re going to get.
Bettina is the only daughter in a pretty traditional Greek household. Her father is the head of the house, making everyone’s decisions. He keeps Bettina on a short leash, but when Brady Cullen asks her on a date, Bettina’s father surprisingly agrees. The first part of their relationship is sweet. Brady is a doting boyfriend, wanting only to make Bettina happy. Then summer starts and their time together is interrupted. When school begins again, Brady is different. He’s no longer sweet. He’s emotionally abusive, venturing into physical abuse sometimes. Bettina runs away from him during one such incident and meets Cowboy. He’s much older, but his car shop provides a safe place for Bettina and soon, something develops between them.
I know there will be people who read this and consider Bettina to be weak. And maybe she is. But I can understand why she is the way she is. She has been taught to respect her elders, especially her father. Her father is tough and has taught her to, basically, suck it up when things happen to her. Plus, dating Brady gives Bettina a little bit of freedom she’s never had. Her father thinks Brady is a good guy, and tells Bettina it is up to her to keep him happy. So even though Bettina knows what Brady does isn’t okay, she has a hard time convincing herself it’s reason to leave.
Cowboy represents more than just a love interest in this story. He is safe. He is respect. He is the person who shows Bettina she has more value than others place in her. She gives herself value. It’s because Cowboy treats her with respect, and shows her that she can be important, that she starts to fall in love with him. I loved the slow build between them. I didn’t want a relationship to happen right away. The sweet little moments as they becomes friends were better than anything else that could have happened between them. It was perfect.
My only complaint with the novel is that the ending felt a little rushed, almost. I wish there had been a little more dealing with Brady’s abuse. There’s a moment of set-up when Connor could have made a big statement about abuse, and coming forward to protect people Brady might date in the future, but it passed without being dealt with. That’s the only thing that bothered me about the novel.
The Things You Kiss Goodbye is not a book for everyone. It deals with abuse and if you have trouble getting behind Bettina, then this will be a tough read. You’ll spend a majority of the novel frustrated because she won’t do what you say. But for the right kind of people, who can stand behind Bettina and want to support her, but also understand where her head is at, this is a book that will gut you in the best way. It’s raw and real, but so, so good.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Katherine Tegen Books for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.