Lips Touch Three Times
Arthur A. Levine Books
Young adult fantasy
October 1, 2009
Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers’ souls:
Goblin Fruit: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today’s savvy girls?
Spicy Little Curses: A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.
Hatchling: Six days before Esme’s fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?
It’s been a while since I reviewed an anthology. These stories are all pretty short, and I really don’t want to give anything away, so this review is going to be short and sweet. Read: vague. I’ll mainly be giving my overall impressions of each story as well as any stand out likes and/or dislikes.
Before we get into the stories themselves, the book’s physical appearance inside and out is well worth commenting on. Firstly, the cover, which I find absolutely striking. I’ve seen this book around for quite a while now online and it just never gets old looking at it. I was told by the Book Smugglers that the artist is the author’s husband, one Jim Di Bartolo, and all I can say is if they have kids, lucky kids to come from two such talented people. The artist also rendered some gorgeous comic book-style art inside for each story and the layout overall is so pretty. In physical terms, the book is well worth the price of a hardback, and I don’t say that too often about hardbacks period, let alone a young adult, whose pages usually number far too few for me to be comfy paying escalated prices. This volume though – gorgeous. Love it. I’m glad to have it in my collection as a good example of getting ones money’s worth from a hardback.
Now, in terms of story:
This was by far my favorite story of the three, and unfortunately the shortest. The heroine, Kizzy, has a wonderful voice and even though she and her family are the strange ones in town, she does have two good friends who she has great dialogue with about a new boy in their class. I loved their conversations – Kizzy and her friends, I mena – and laughed plenty at their fresh and easy talk. Well done and I can picture kids today talking like these did.
Goblin Fruit made it evident that the book isn’t typical of a lot of YA these days in the sense that the book isn’t about romance, nor is romance in any way a goal with these stories. These are much, much darker tales. And that’s OK. I actually liked that Goblin Fruit focused on a great mythology-drawn tale and the consequences the heroine faced in it. Overall, a great story, even if I did wish for it to have been longer so as to flesh the whole thing out even more. I think it would’ve made a great, longer short story.
Spicy Little Curses:
Taking place in India, Taylor’s voice changes oh so subtly enough in this short story to give a wonderful, aromatic appeal to the setting. I’m not wild about romances set in India, so I wasn’t sure how I’d take this decidedly different fantasy tale. Again, I found the author’s realization of it through her very lovely prose to be quite refreshing.
Unfortunately, the story itself ended up not really working for me. The premise is as fresh and unique as the others int he book, but the characters this time were not as well-rounded as I would have liked. The idea behind it all -fascinating. But the girl that it all ultimately hinges on was lack luster.Because she wasn’t one I could really get into, she kind of ended up just deflating the whole story by the end.
By far the strangest of the three stories. Like it’s predecessor, Hatchling starts off strong, with a very compelling premise and initial execution. I admit, while already having realized this wouldn’t happen, to falling for the possible There Might Be a Romance Here. And maybe there was, I’m not sure. Frankly, this story confused the heck out of me.
One part takes place in the form of flashbacks to these alien-esque/demonic creatures and the life of one human that is kept by their queen for an unknown purpose. The setting was very cool and wild and the demons were the kind that are unrepentantly self-serving. I was quite horrified on behalf of the humans they dealt with. While readers will find out all eventually, I was quite turned around almost the entire time and ended up frustrated by this more than anything. The amount of imagination in this particular story, while very impressive and quite enviable, ended up being rather un-enjoyable for me because I couldn’t quite put my finger on what in the world was going on. It all came to me eventually, but I was disappointed not to have fully enjoyed such a thoroughly imaginative and strange tale all the way through.
I’ve heard a lot of good about Taylor’s writing and was very glad to have finally experienced it. As much as I love to read fantasy, I can honestly say that I have never read anything like this. If you’re curious about her writing, too, I do recommend these short tales as a way to introduce yourself. Her work here isn’t centered on Happy Ever Afters, but they are engrossing, odd and so, so intriguing. Despite not fully enjoying all the stories, I am in awe of the author’s imagination and skill. The writing is quite beautiful and where I couldn’t quite enjoy where a story might be going, I could fully admire the writing itself.
I’m intrigued enough to try more of Taylor’s work and hopefully will be doing so in the near future.