Who knew kissing a corpse would change everything?
Death always hits Xylia Morana too close to home, but she likes it that way. She hangs out with the terminally ill, attends random funerals, and every so often, when the weather is right, she sleeps in open graves.
But after Landon Phoenix, the high school hottie, dies in Xylia’s hands, she sneaks into the morgue to say goodbye. How could she know stealing a kiss from his corpse would wake him up?
With Landon returned to the living and suddenly interested in Xylia, life has new meaning. But what Xylia doesn’t realize is that by kissing Landon back to life, she’s thrown Life and Death off balance. The underworld demands a body, and it might just have to be Xylia’s this time.
Xylia found her mother dead on Christmas Day. In the years since, she has been obsessed by death. Her father, a doctor, finds her habit of attending the funerals of strangers unhealthy. With a planned road trip held hostage on a condition of good behavior, Xylia puts on a goofy outfit in her school’s colors–the only clothes she owns that aren’t black–and she gets into her dad’s car to attend the last soccer game of the year. Xylia’s relationship with her father has become distant over the years since her mother’s death and soccer games are the one activity that they still do together. The ride is tense, though, in the wake of their argument.
During the soccer game, the team’s star, Landon Phoenix, has only one thing on his mind. Giving the talent scouts in the stands the best performance of his life. A scholarship is his only way out of the small town his family is struggling in. In fact, his focus is acute that the signs of his body failing him escape him completely. He throws a soccer ball back onto the field to begin the next play. It falls to the ground mere feet from him, confusing him. The last thing he sees is shock on his cousin Daniel’s face before his lights go out. He dies minutes later in the back of the ambulance while Xylia and her father try to revive him.
A few hours later, Xylia kisses Landon goodbye. And he sits up.
A Stiff Kiss is a complicated story told simply, following a formula that is reminiscent of the movie Big. A child dissatisfied with her present situation does something desperate which results in something bizarre. Like Josh Baskin, Xylia is at first horrified by the outcome of her actions, but later takes advantage of it, even as it becomes clear that there is a price to be paid for the new reality she enjoys.
But being a dual POV novel, Xylia’s decisions are not the only ones with consequences. Landon has an on-again/off-again girlfriend who won’t take a hint, a college plan that depends solely on soccer, and an exhaustion related death and ressurection in his medical history (which makes him pretty much un-recruitable). Has he been given a second chance? Or is he living on borrowed time?
Avery Olive incorporated the best and worst of teenagers into A Stiff Kiss. In Xylia, we see strong individuality paired with deep insecurity. Landon gives us passion, and drive fueled by desperation. In the students around them, we see scorn, fear, love, and pain, all in fleeting moments that pass away as quick as they come for teenagers, who take the wrong things too seriously or not seriously enough.
As a fan of YA paranormal and John Hughes movies, I very much enjoyed A Stiff Kiss. Put the resurrection bit aside and what remains is a story about a pair of kids whose broken pieces fit each other, and that’s something I think most people would relate to and find endearing.