Review + Giveaway: Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman

I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for Kissing Max Holden! I have followed Katy's blog for several years, being witness to her journey to publication. And now Kissing Max Holden is here! I'm thrilled to say that this is an amazing YA contemporary novel - filled with heart, humor and emotion. I hope you'll grab a copy and experience Kissing Max Holden for yourself!

Kissing Max Holden
Katy Upperman

Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: August 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Kissing Max Holden was a terrible idea…  
After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help him, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.   
With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?

Let me cut to the chase and say right up front: Kissing Max Holden is an amazing debut novel that checks all the boxes for what I want when it comes to contemporary YA. Realistic characters, dialogue that rings true, complex family relationships... and plenty of swoony moments with cute boys. Kissing Max Holden delivers all that and more.

Jill was a character I liked from the start. Things at home are tense, her father's and step-mother's arguments are escalating, going to New York for culinary school is suddenly in jeopardy, and when the boy next door climbed in her window it ends in an unexpected (but thrilling) make out session. With all this going on, Jill didn't collapse into dramatics or wallow in angst. Nope, not this girl's style. When faced with disappointment or trouble, Jill showed real maturity for her age, picked herself up, adjusted, and got on with it. When she was dealt a pretty tough blow that nixed her plan for the future, she didn't act like a sulky, petulant child (which, let's be honest, is likely how I would have reacted at seventeen). Instead, she started working out how else to make her dream happen. I admired her strength and tenacity. And when it came to Max, she was no pushover. She knew when to draw the line and say enough.(I totally want to be Jill when I grow up!)

What right does he have to be nonchalant? He was the one who came to my window. He was the one who initiated the kissing. He was the one who cheated on his girlfriend. Why am I stressing out?

Confession time: I wasn't sure how to feel about Max at first. Was he a jerk that I was supposed to like? Because honestly, those first few interactions left me on the fence about the swoony boy next door (well, technically he's the boy across the street but whatever). But I quickly warmed to Max and despite his behavior, despite his bad decisions... it was obvious he wasn't a bad guy. This was not a case of the bad boy with the heart of gold. He was not that guy. Max was a good guy who was struggling with changes in his own family - and having a really hard time accepting and adjusting. Upperman struck the perfect balance with Max: a troubled boy who was acting out but never so far gone that you questioned Jill's judgment or her feelings for him. I was completely charmed by Max, especially when he showed the side of him that was sweet and flirty and genuinely caring. 

He looks at me with wide eyes, like he's been lost, wandering for ages and just stumbled upon the compass he didn't know he was missing.

I loved the evolution of Max and Jill's relationship. It wasn't easy. It was messy, filled with uncertainty and hurt feelings and missteps - and it felt completely real. Goodness knows there were obstacles: Max had a girlfriend, Jill's father ordered her to stay away from Max, Max continued to make poor choices at times. The push and pull of their relationship felt so genuine and I was completely invested as they sorted through it all and made their way to one another. And through the good times and the bad I loved every glimpse of Max's innate sweetness: the way he called Jill Jilly, the times he bought her giant-sized Cokes because he knew she loved fountain drinks best, the way he interacted with his nephew. I mean, come on, what girl wouldn't want to be Kissing Max Holden?

Max Holden is kissing me like it means something. Like he wants to keep kissing me, forever. 

The family relationships and situations were another aspect that was done so well. Upperman's exploration of Jill's relationship with her father and her step-mother was thoughtful and emotional and always rang true. The relationships evolved, sometimes in surprising ways, over the course of the story What I appreciated most? That not every problem and every issue was tied up with a neat little bow at the end. It lent even more authenticity.

Upperman's writing pulled me in from the start and there were so many times that I had to stop and read a particular line or passage several times, and just smile at its simplicity and perfection ("Things were easy back then; we goofed around to a soundtrack of endless laughter.") The dialogue was spot on, the humor so effortless and the culinary turns of phrase as a nod to Jill's love of baking all worked seamlessly together to create a delectable concoction. All I can say is, I can't wait to see what Katy Upperman serves up next!

Author Bio:
Katy Upperman is a graduate of Washington State University, a former elementary school teacher, and an insatiable reader. When not writing for young adults, Katy can be found whipping up batches of chocolate chip cookies, or exploring the country with her husband and daughter. Kissing Max Holden is her debut novel.



  1. I have this on my TBR and it sounds like such a cute book!! I love neighbor romance stories. I also like when YA books have good family moments/interactions. Great review!

    1. Family - both Jill's and Max's - plays such a big role here. I hope you'll enjoy this one, Grace!

  2. Great review, Tanya! This sounds like a fun and super cute read! Glad you liked it! :)

  3. Fabulous review, and you are so right. Jillian was such a strong character. While Max was sort of spiraling out of control due to his family situation, Jillian was kept her head up, her eyes on the prize, and never stopped baking.

    1. I loved how she was strong enough to have boundaries with Max even despite her feelings for him. She refused to enable him and called him out on his behavior.

  4. Kissing Max Holden sounds great! Thank you

  5. I want to try this! I love that it's not just a fluffy romance but also has some depth!
    Jen Ryland

    1. I hope you'll enjoy it if you decide to give it a try, Jen. I've seen several reviews railing about the cheating aspect but honestly I didn't focus on that and felt like it was addressed well.