I’m a sucker for a good ol’ fashioned coming-of-age story with heart and humor. I’m a sucker for beautiful complex characters and smart writing. I’m also a huge sucker for romance — the kind of romance that’s frowned upon for reasons unique to the story but then ends up defying the odds and culminating in a beautiful realization for both characters.
So Netflix’s The Kissing Booth, based on the book by Beth Reekles, was the very thing that I gravitate to as a reader and as a movie-goer. So, naturally, I gravitated toward it. And I was more than satisfied with my viewing that consisted of some hardcore shipping, nostalgia, hilarity and the clasping of my hands in front of my mouth during certain moments. The kind of stuff that assured me that, yes, I was in love with a movie. And to think it all happened because of a kissing booth.
Without having read the book (which is now going to change, as I just ordered it off Amazon) this felt like it was an adaptation that remained fairly close to the source material. I could feel it in the writing, the dialogue, the direction of the story. This was a movie that felt like it was delivering the essence of The Kissing Booth onto the small screen.
Having watched and critiqued numerous book adaptations, the thing you have to realize is that you’re not getting a carbon copy of the book. But the studios adapting these books also need to understand that you need to maintain the essence of the story throughout your retelling.
Like I said, I haven’t read The Kissing Booth book. So I could be wrong. This could be the complete opposite tone and direction of the book. But I’ve done this enough to trust my gut. And my gut says that this was one of the better adaptations in recent history.
The Kissing Booth isn’t a movie that’s life-changing or a movie that’ll be winning big awards, but at its core it managed to accomplish perhaps the most under appreciated aspects of movies that seems to get lost in the shuffle: It was great entertainment.
The Kissing Booth was enjoyable in its portrayal of friendship and first love and the trials and tribulations that come with each of those things. This movie brought a sense of nostalgia as I was transported back to a time when I was figuring things out for the first time. And, as a viewer, what more can you ask for than a movie that manages to be heartwarming, funny, and relatable?
Let’s talk about the romance, friendship, and coming-of-age story in The Kissing Booth:
The Coming-Of-Age Story
The reason that I gravitate toward and love Young Adult fiction in books, movies, or television is because it reminds me of the most important part of a person’s life: The moment you go from child to adult. The classic coming-of-age story is always one that will resonate with audiences because it’s grounded in reality. Even in sci-fi or fantasy, those coming-of-age stories are incredibly important in driving the plot.
Which is why The Kissing Booth was a great addition to the list of young adult coming-of-age stories as Elle went through the biggest change in her young life thus far. Through a series of highs and lows and trials and tribulations, she learned about love, friendship, and herself. These young adult stories thrive in conflict and flaws, which serve to teach these character valuable lessons that ultimately shape the adult that they will become. And The Kissing Booth was no different.
From an epic love to a lifelong friendship, Elle was exposed to new things that both challenged her and made her stronger. Whether it was learning to open her heart or to be a better friend or realizing that, when all is said and done, she’s responsible for her own decisions and gets to choose who she loves, this was a beautiful journey that reminds us how the experiences in our lives have shaped the people we are today.
When all was said and done, Elle wasn’t left heartbroken and feeling as if her life had ended when Noah left for Harvard. No, she realized that through loving Noah — and everything that they shared — that her life was only just beginning. It gave her the confidence to approach life in a new way. And there’s something really beautiful about that.
Do you remember your first kiss? How big of a deal it was and how it felt like it would alter your entire life? The Kissing Booth brought back old memories of what it was like to be young and in high school again going through the book of life not knowing what the next page would hold. Where every moment felt significant. Where every heartbreak felt like it would actually shatter your world. Where every success gave you the motivation to keep pushing forward.
I was a sucker for Elle and Noah’s forbidden romance. Like I said before, I love the kind of romances that aren’t supposed to happen. I love how two people can come together through a series of random decisions or fated experiences. There’s something really beautiful about that.
The Kissing Booth highlighted the all-important story of first love. The kind of love that feels like it’ll last forever. The kind of love that, when it’s gone, feels like it’s impossible to regain your footing again. The kind of love that you’ll never forget for the rest of your life. There’s nothing like you’re first love.
I’m a complete sucker for the “you’re so annoying, there’s no way we’d ever be something more friends” trope. Coupled with the fact that Elle was Noah’s little brother’s best friend and they all grew up with each other. But, as life always does, things changed. Feelings changed. And it was all set into motion because of one kiss at a kissing booth.
Noah was the hottest boy in school. Elle was his kid brother’s annoying best friend. And yet, Elle and Noah found a beautiful first love with each other. There was something really beautiful about how they both inspired each other to take risks and embrace life for all that it is. Elle learned what it was to love and Noah learned how to let love in.
But perhaps my favorite thing was how this love story didn’t have a happy ending. More like it had an open ending. Noah went off to college, on the East Coast (Harvard, yay!) while Elle remained in Los Angeles to finish high school. Noah didn’t sacrifice going to Harvard to stay with her (which I admit, I was terrified would happen). Elle didn’t act as if her whole life had ended because he was gone.
This was what it was: First love. A love that doesn’t always work out in the end. A love that, if it’s meant to be, will work out in the end.
Another important component of growing up is friendship. And The Kissing Booth brought friendship to the front and center of its story with Elle and Lee, who were born the same day at the same time at the same hospital in Los Angeles. Talk about fated to be best friends for life.
The thing I really appreciated about The Kissing Booth was that it didn’t shy away from the challenges that come with friendship. It reminded us that communication and acceptance is key when it comes to friends. Because why you might not always agree with your bestie, you have to willing to understand where they’re coming from. If you don’t, it’s not going to work, simple as that.
After Lee discovered that Elle had been having a secret romance with his older brother Noah, he lost it because, as a person, he felt like Noah always got everything he wanted. Elle was the one person that Noah didn’t have. Until now. Not going to lie, I rolled my eyes hard at that comment. First off, Elle isn’t property. She doesn’t belong to anyone. Second, don’t forget rule #18: Celebrate your friend’s successes.
I understand the underlying complications of the brothers’ relationship, but Lee overreacted without letting Elle really talk about it with him. And even after they made up, we still didn’t get to have them talk about it. Until their birthday party when Elle realized that it wasn’t up to Lee to decide who she could love. That was a conversation that needed to happen. Elle needed to say it, and Lee needed to listen to her. When all is said and done, it’s Elle’s life. Yes, Lee is her best friend and, clearly, his opinion means a lot to her. But ultimately it’s not up to Lee to decide what’s best for Elle or what’s worth making a mistake for. That’s Elle.
This taught us a very important lesson about friendship: If you bestie doesn’t support you or can’t accept the decisions that you make, then they aren’t your friend. That doesn’t mean they can’t disagree, but they have to let you go out there on your own and make mistakes and let you write your own story. And that’s what Lee learned. He had to let Elle write her own story complete with missteps, highs, and lows. That cemented the friendship aspect of the story as one that ultimately resulted as satisfying.
If you’re a fan of a good Young Adult coming-of-age story filled with romance and friendship, then The Kissing Booth will not disappoint. You might even just find a little bit of yourself in the story.
The Kissing Booth is now streaming on Netflix.