Bettina never expected to fall in love with a guy like Brady, but she did. And she never expected her strict Bampas to like him either, but he did. Suddenly, Bettina's world opens up because being with Brady means that she's freer that she's ever been in her life. But when Brady's treatment of her changes, and the bruises are starting to show, Bettina thinks that her only options lie between a rock and a hard place - freedom from Brady, or freedom from her father... until someone comes along and makes Bettina question her own choices.
Bettina and Brady's romance started off really, really sweet and adorable. You know, like that one couple you personally know and are secretly "shipping" with your friends because they are the very epitome of romantic love? But when Brady's darker side began to rear its ugly head, even readers felt the confusion Bettina did. The sweetest guy God possibly ever created slowly started pushing her around and "teasing" her, all because he was getting more popular in high school. (Hoo boy, now that is a really small fishpond you got there, bud.)
Bettina's relationship with Bampas, Greek for father, is just as tricky. Here is a very traditional father who wanted to raise his children in a controlled environment, never mind the fact that he was raising them in the Land of the Free. Well, hate to break it to you, Bampas, but you're gonna have a hard time with that one, and you're gonna have a harder time making your children fit into your mold. Bettina, being in an age of exploration and curiosity, of course has a pretty big problem with her Bampas' stern parenting. But when Brady and Bampas meet, her father seems to find him okay and allows Bettina to enjoy her little moments of freedom. Freedom that, in Bettina's opinion, will be taken away once Brady leaves the picture.
The first three-fourths of this book, I really liked. And since I got an eARC, the blurb was still pretty vague, so I had little to no idea what the book was heading towards. When I met Cowboy, I had pretty mixed feelings. Do I want a better guy for Bettina? YES! Do I want it to be Cowboy? Um, okay, he seems genuinely nice. Did I ever in my wildest dreams anticipate what happens next? H-e-double-hockey-sticks no!!! In my opinion, that little - okay, not so little - twist of events made me wave away the notion that this was a realistic contemporary fiction. While this book could motivate teens to speak up about abuse and violence, I think that Connor had another motive in mind when she wrote the last parts of the book.
Overall though, I'd still recommend Leslie Connor's The Things You Kiss Goodbye. While 80% of the theme revolved around abuse, I'd want teens to be more aware of how anything and everything could change in a relationship in an instant - and that just like Bettina, you are not the fault.