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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

The Book Nook: 'Six Times We Almost Kissed' explores romance and trauma


Tess Sharpe’s “Six Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did)” (2023) is a poignant and expertly-plotted young adult contemporary romance novel releasing next year from publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 

Penny and Tate aren’t friends. Penny is anxious and hyper-organized whereas Tate is a quiet, competitive swimmer who can be found swimming laps in the pool. But because their mothers are best friends, their lives have always been intertwined even though they’ve never wanted them to be. And when medical circumstances force the two girls to live together, they’ll be forced to confront everything they’ve been running from — including their pasts, their traumas and the times they’ve almost kissed.

Inspired by the "5+1" structure popular in fanfiction, Sharpe crafts an unforgettable sapphic romance novel full of angst and heart. Told through both girls’ perspectives of the present and six moments of almost kisses from their pasts, the novel unfolds in wholly unexpected ways and allows for the reader’s understanding of their character to slowly build over time. Penny and Tate are equally compelling characters with their own unique voices, traumas and hopes. And while “Six Times” is a slowburn, sapphic romance, it’s equal parts a thoughtful exploration of trauma and what it’s like to be forced to grow up too fast as a result of it. From the long-term illness Tate’s mother faces to the sudden death of Penny’s father which her mother is unable to cope with, both protagonists have had their lives defined by forces out of their control that they’ve unfairly had to grapple with. Alongside the two girls accepting their feelings for one another, they also embark on a journey of healing. Their romantic arcs and character arcs intertwine and conclude in satisfying ways, showing readers that the process of healing and pursuing relationships, both platonic and romantic, may be messy — but is ultimately worth it. For all the grief and sadness in the pages of this book, there’s an equal amount of hope.

And there’s only one bed scene, which is equally important to note.

“Six Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did)” is the perfect read for anyone in need of proof that happy endings exist for people like them or for anyone who prefers romance novels that explore heavier themes. The novel is available for pre-order now.