this world we live in: Susan Beth Pfeffer: Young Adult Fiction (Dystopia) Review
Children's Literacy and Reading News Round-Up: December 7

Lips Touch: Three Times: Laini Taylor: Young Adult Fantasy Review

Book: Lips Touch: Three Times
Author: Laini Taylor (blog)
Illustrator: Jim Di Bartolo
Pages: 272
Age Range: 12 and up 

LipsTouch Background: When I reviewed Laini Taylor's Silksinger, I included an extensive disclosure of my background with Laini, so I'll not repeat that here. Suffice it to say that Laini is a friend from past Kidlitosphere conferences. I want her books to do well because I like her as a person. But I love her books and enjoy reading them because she's an amazing writer. An important distinction.

Review: Lips Touch: Three Times is a collection of three short stories (or perhaps novelettes would be more accurate - the longest is about 135 pages). All three are paranormal romances, united by the fact that a kiss plays a major role in each story.

In the first story, Goblin Fruit, a human teen named Kizzy is targeted by, lured by, a goblin. In the second story, Spicy LIttle Curses, a girl is cursed at birth with a voice so beautiful that it will kill anyone who hears it. In the third and longest story, Hatchling, a human girl escapes from imprisonment by demons, only to find, years later, her daughter at risk. Although all of the stories feature supernatural elements, each story is largely about romance and longing and what people will do, and risk, for those they love.

All three stories have an old-fashioned feel. They are dark, like un-Disneyfied fairy tales, populated by goblins and devils, set in exotic locales. There is suspense over the fate of each character, and heartbreak over evils that have already befallen them. These stories will keep teens eagerly turning the pages.

There are also universal elements that will resonate with modern teens. Particularly in the first story, in which Kizzy is targeted by goblins because of her yearning to be pretty. She hates herself, and wishes that she could be part of the mainstream at her school, rather than an outsider from an odd family.

But what makes Lips Touch special is the sheer brilliance of Laini Taylor's prose. All three stories are filled with lyrical, descriptive passages. It's the kind of writing that makes you stop and think "Wow! How does she do that?". She clearly loves words. Here are my favorite examples from each story:

"She opened her eyes. A swan feather drifted past her face, twirled when her breath caught it, sat up, blinked again. The room was asift with swan feathers. They were settling to the floor as if she had just missed the strange storm that had deposited them here." (Page 42, Goblin Fruit)

"Down in Hell, the Englishwoman known in Jaipur as "the old bitch" was taking tea with a demon. She was silver-haired, straight-backed, and thin-lipped, with a stare that could shoot laughter from the air like game birds. She was not at all liked by her countrymen, but even they would have been shocked to see her here." (Page 70, the opening passage to Spicy Little Curses)

"They were both small and beautiful with long, long hair as red as persimmons. They laughed alike and moved alike, and they thought the same thoughts as completely as if a butterfly traveled back and forth between their minds, bearing ideas on its legs like pollen." (Page 146, first page of Hatchling).

I mean, "asift with swan feathers"? Thoughts traveling back and forth like a butterfly? Amazing stuff!

Lips Touch is also a physically gorgeous book. Each story begins with a wordless graphical overview of the tale, with drawings by Jim Di Bartolo (Laini's husband). Jim's drawings are lush, brooding, and darkly beautiful, the perfect complement to Laini's prose. The headers and page numbers on each page are rendered in a burnt orange color, reminiscent of the flames from the eye-catching cover. This is a small thing, but one that speaks to the publisher's investment in the book. (An investment that paid off -- Lips Touch was a short list title for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature (see Laini's recap of the event here).)

Lips Touch is not to be missed by fans of fantasy or romance, teens and adults. It's a book that casts a spell over the reader, drawing him or her into worlds that feel real, yet are light-years away from ordinary. Highly recommended, and an excellent holiday gift for high-school girls.

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Book Nut, Colleen Mondor, and Becky's Book Reviews (see lots of other reviews linked at Becky's). See also Shelf Elf's interview with Laini from the Winter Blog Blast Tour

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).