6 Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did) by Tess Sharpe book cover and art
(Little, Brown, and Company)

Review: ‘6 Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did)’ Is an Adorable Love Story & Tragic Family Saga

The YA genre is off to a strong start in 2023, with Tess Sharpe dropping a heartfelt and adorable love story for the ages. 6 Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did) was released on January 24 and is a tribute to slow-burn romances, encased in a heartrending family saga. Sharpe is also the author behind Far From You and The Girls I’ve Been, the latter of which is receiving a film adaption starring Millie Bobby Brown. She is known for writing emotionally raw stories with romantic backdrops that tackle mature themes and are representative of the LBGTQ+ community.

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6 Times We Almost Kissed follows Penny and Tate, two high schoolers brought together by their mothers’ friendship, who have been dancing around their romantic tension for years. Things get complicated when Penny’s mother becomes a living liver donor for Tate’s mom. Suddenly, the girls are forced closer together as they bear the brunt of the responsibility in their mothers’ preparation and recovery process. Though they make a truce to be completely unproblematic, responsible daughters, they can’t ignore the blossoming romance between them as they grow closer while grappling with their shared history.

The story will draw readers in with its irresistible slow-burn romantic fanfic-like premise, but it will also make them stick around to see the resolution of this convoluted family drama that includes love, loss, grief, dysfunction, and healing.

6 Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did) beautifully entwines romance and realism

I delved into 6 Times We Almost Kissed expecting a formulaic but irresistible LBGTQ+ love story. While the part of me that is a sucker for adorable and predictable romances was fulfilled, I also got a surprising emotional gut punch from the realistic and heartbreaking depiction of unconventional families. In the book, Tate and Penny are in the same boat, both without a father. Penny’s father tragically died in a rafting accident, while Tate’s father abandoned her and her mother, Anna. As a result, they both often pressure themselves to play the role their fathers should have in this situation—caring for their mothers and taking care of finances and the household.

The story really gives a brutal and heartbreaking look into a very underrepresented subgroup: kids forced to be adults too young. At 17, Tate and Penny task themselves with caring for their mothers, taking care of all the arrangements for the surgery, and managing the finances of their homes by taking on extra work shifts and even selling their few prized possessions. Fortunately, Tate and Penny are blessed with two absolutely amazing and kind-hearted friends, Remi and Meghan, who step in to help without even being asked. 6 Times We Almost Kissed will resonate with all the kids dealt a raw deal in life, but will also inspire empathy and awareness for those unfamiliar with such circumstances.

The novel shines a much-needed light on the sacrifices and bravery of the kids who are forced to step up in their families when loss, addiction, depression, deteriorating health, or financial crisis strikes. However, it also shines a light on the importance of standing up to a parent when necessary. While some kids step up in a family and suffer silently, they still need support from their parents. Penny’s mother, Lottie, is a parent who has shut down, so wrapped in her own grief that she can’t even see her child’s pain.

The message is clear: If a mere child can step up and be an adult when their family needs it, there is no excuse, even grief, that gives a parent a right to check out on their duties.

6 Times We Almost Kissed is a love story for the ages

6 Times We Almost Kissed is rife with deep messages on family dynamics, but at its core, it is an intensely sweet and heartwarming love story. Penny and Tate just can’t stop almost kissing, and readers will be on the edge of their seats waiting for the next vignette of past near-kisses as they piece together the romantic history between the two. The underlying message is that, regardless of life’s complications, love is inescapable and no one is ever unlovable.

Penny and Tate have every right to fear love, but ultimately, readers will be rooting for that kiss to finally come because no two protagonists have ever quite deserved that elusive kiss as much as they do. 6 Times We Almost Kissed is a difficult and candid story to take in sometimes, but it is softened with a tale that shows love is sweet and undeniable.

(featured image: Little, Brown, and Company)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.