Kiss Number 8

Kiss Number 8 header

We not only live in changing times, but we live in quickly changing times. Kiss Number 8 came out in 2019, and as the story of a girl realizing she’s gay, complicated by the unspoken family history she discovers, it already feels a little like a period piece. (Not enough of one, though, given current events.)

To be fair, the author’s interview in the back makes that point as well, based on how long the book took to write and draw; plus, it’s set in 2004. The book is written by Colleen AF Venable and illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw. It’s about Mads, a Catholic girl. Her friends are Cat (the wild one, who sneaks out and messes around with boys) and Laura (the quiet one), whose brother Adam has a crush on Mads.

Kiss Number 8 cover

Mads is beginning to realize she’d rather kiss Cat than Adam, which isn’t accepted by her family, particularly given how harsh her grandfather is and was to her father. Mads also discovers a relative she’s never heard of, an early trans person with a hidden history. Cat does introduce her to a more diverse group of musicians, though, and their friendship is helpful.

This is a complex story with well-developed characters, both textually and visually, as well as a ton of detail about how family relationships work with a religious background. That’s not the only reason for difficult choices, though. Sometimes, it’s abuse under the claim of love, or lies people tell out of good intentions or fear of change. Here, the beloved parent reacts badly, and the one who’s always annoying ends up supportive. That reflects how our impressions can change as we grow up.

By making this fiction, Mads’ struggle can be explored in more depth, with nuanced representation of the complexity of feelings and relationships and expectations. With its layers and emotional verisimilitude, Kiss Number 8 is a lengthy and rewarding read, a true modern masterpiece.

(Review originally posted at Good Comics for Kids.)

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