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First French Kiss: And Other Traumas    by Adam Bagdasarian order for
First French Kiss
by Adam Bagdasarian
Order:  USA  Can
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2002 (2002)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The author invites his readers to join him 'on a random journey to the happy, confusing, humorous, traumatic, sad, romantic years of age five to age twenty', which says it all. He includes twenty-three accounts that will resonate with those who are still in that age range and remind the rest of us of what we do and don't miss from those years. Short stories are interspersed with five dreamlike memories of childhood, all entitled 'Life and Times'.

The title story tells of a grade 6 First French Kiss experience, in which the mechanics overwhelm the passion. There is the time as a six-year-old, when the most significant moment in a move from cosy neighborhood to a mansion was the realization of the loss of 'the best climbing tree in the world.' My Side of the Story is a wonderful tale of sibling rivalry and of the difference between Mom and Pop's versions of justice.

There is the first realization of 'Is that all there is?' associated with a gumball machine; a transformation from coach's nightmare to coach's dream in Little League; a story that shows how transient and treacherous popularity can be; one on the flightiness of young love; an 8th grade fight; a 14-year-old hypochondriac; attraction and reaction to use of a BB gun; loss of a brother to college; and the death of an admired father, when 'everything you feel is a forty-foot wave of water'.

These are moving tales that bring back the feel of childhood and teen years, as the author makes his farewell to that time of his life and writes a tribute to the father who taught him to 'Just finish it'.

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