Warning: this book is the third in a series, and will inevitably contain spoilers for the first book, French Kiss and the second, Kiss and Make Up.
So Edie and Dylan are back together again and seem to have achieved some level of stability. There's no more sneaking around and kissing other people - but there's a dark spot looming on the horizon. Edie is due to head off to London for university in September while Dylan has to finish his own degree in Manchester. To make the most of the summer, they decide to blow their combined savings and go on the road trip across the USA that they've always talked about. Across the ocean, with no friends nearby to help them blow off steam, spending long days with only each other for company, their relationship becomes difficult once again. Will they work past it, or finally break up for real?
The third in the trilogy, Sealed with a Kiss brings another change of tone and atmosphere. Whereas French Kiss featured just-out-of-school Edie playing hard to get with an equally difficult Dylan, and Kiss and Make Up was all about heartbreak, fighting, and lust, Sealed with a Kiss is about adulthood and big decisions. Edie's patience is put to the test as Dylan finally starts to open up and confront his past. I think this is handled really well, and shows how both characters have developed in the last few years.
In Kiss and Make Up we saw a few of Edie and Dylan's e-mails to each other, but in Sealed with a Kiss, Edie regularly e-mails Grace, who has taken over guitarist duties in Mellowstar and has a crush of her own. This was originally the set-up for Grace to become the new diarist in the J-17 column, and you can read her diary entries in the e-novella Diary of a Grace, though I'll warn you that it ends too soon! Sealed with a Kiss also features e-mails between Dylan and Shona, which I loved. I think that their friendship is one of the best in the series, much as I love Poppy and her girl gang.
But it's not all serious business as Poppy acquires an amusingly odd
boyfriend in Jesse, the band perform in front of an audience, and D and
Eeeds see the sights of America and enjoy being young and in love. There's plenty
of fun amongst the angst, though I always find it bittersweet as I know
the end is nigh.
The spine of my copy of Sealed with a Kiss is still unbroken, and the pages are only slightly warped, whereas my copies of French Kiss and Kiss and Make Up are worn and battered-looking. I haven't read Sealed with a Kiss that often, compared with the other two books, and I think that my reluctance to reread it comes partly from wanting to avoid the end. Rereading the first two books, there's always more to come, but although Sealed with a Kiss has probably the most perfect
ending that this trilogy could have, it's still an ending.
There are glimpses of Edie and Dylan in Diary of a Grace (or at least there were in the columns!), but Edie never picks up her diarist's pen again.
However, I know I've also avoided rereading it because I read the road trip section too many times in my mid-teens. It was originally a free-gift book, American Dream,
and I adored it, despite having missed both previous books and knowing
almost nothing about Edie and Dylan's history. Seriously. I reread it
every couple of months and took it on holiday with me a couple of times
just so that I wouldn't be without it.
[I know. Wasn't
there a library in my town? There is a library in my town! It's great!
But back then contemporary teen fiction books were these tiny thin
things that you could read six of in an afternoon - not an exaggeration,
I did this every third Saturday after my library trip. American Dream was far better than any of them.]
As you might imagine, by the time I got my greedy hands on the Bite edition of the trilogy in 2004, I knew American Dream almost by heart, and despite my love, I was kind of sick of it. So I read Sealed with a Kiss hungrily up until the part where I recognised the entries and then I flicked over the rest! I've read it again since but it was quite hard to make myself do it.
What I'm trying to say is that I hope the teens of today love this series as much as I did and read it over and over until they're nearly sick of it. I then hope they stop and go read something else for a bit before they return, and that they lend their copies to their friends, and buy more copies as presents for their younger cousins! I loved it as a teen, and despite its age and change of format, I think that it stands up well today, as a fun, addictive, fast-paced and romantic trilogy (plus novella). Dylan is still the ultimate book boyfriend, and Edie the coolest fictional girl in the world.
Previously: A Top Ten Tuesday and discussion post about 'toxic' boys like Dylan.
Next up: I wrote about how much I wanted to be cool, and how J-17 was a massive influence on me.