Kiss Number 8 is a graphic novel that will not be coming out until March of next year, but really deserves a lot of press beforehand. Like Check, Please! Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu (previously reviewed here and currently out) Colleen AF Venable does not shy away from some tough issues. However, unlike Ukazu there is less humor.
Warning: to best show you this book there are a lot of spoilers below. Therefore, I will say here, this is a great book, but will not be for everyone. However, if you like very young adult stories or graphic novels, give this a shot.
Being a teenager is hard: there are friends to deal with, classes and trying to understand yourself in relationship to your religion is hard enough but Mads learns that her family has a huge secret. Well, not just one; as Mads has a few herself. And that just really can make things go from bad to a lot worse!
Realistically dealing with teenage sexuality, family and friends relationships and sexuality in regard to gender, Venable and illustrator Ellen T. Crenshaw paint a picture of modern life in beautiful, hard and wonderful language and artwork.
There are few things I think some people might have trouble with, as some caused a few bumps for me.
Spoiler One: While Mads parents (mostly) come to terms with who she is, the rest of her family and friends do not. If you want a “Utopian Everything is Rainbow Ending” this will not be for you. But I liked that her friends do not “forgive her” and that the rumors keep coming. Yes, teenagers are cruel and will throw friends under the bus.
Spoiler Two: Most of Mads family comes out and says how “sick and wrong” gays and transgender people are. There really is not one person, until her new friends open her eyes to how “the other half” live, that you see a positive image of non-traditional gender or sexually.
Spoiler Three: The story is one chapter. No breaks to pause the story line.
Spoiler Four: And finally, a character will be saying one thing but the illustrations will paint a drastically different image (such as Mads dad says how selfish and mentally ill his mother was and how she never was there for him, but his memories show how she was beyond a cool mom and he was okay with the things he now says are “deviant”).
Due to the sexual nature (talking about sex, gays, transgenders, showing the results of the affair Mads grandfather has), language and the way a few characters are portrayed in less than positive light, I would not recommend this to anyone under 14 years-old but up to 120 years-old.
This book also looks like it will be part of a group of books (but not series) in the graphic novel format dealing with GLTB themes.