From the opening lines of Michael Milton’s KISSING DAISY PARKER, readers will find themselves hooked. One of its leads — titular Daisy Parker — describes the thoroughly unpleasant facial reconstructive surgery she underwent at the age of seventeen. After a litany of horrifying details, she asks herself does she recommends it to others and answers: “Definitely.”
That opening summons all the joy and terror of adolescence, when far too many of us achingly, desperately wanted to belong and sought a magical solution that would have made us smarter, better, bolder, cool. Before her surgery, Daisy’s schoolmates mocked her looks. Her half-Pakistani friend Junaid Jarvis suffers racist jokes. As for Daisy’s boyfriend Gregor Buchan, he is as Scottish as they come, but he’s also obsessed with competing in video game tournaments – still a peculiar hobby in the early 1990s when the novel takes place.
Hopeful yet scared, the trio is looking for a way forward after completing high school. At the same time, their relationship grows increasingly messy as they (un)intentionally hurt each other in that annoyingly earnest way teenagers excel in. To them, life feels like a movie, with them as its leading protagonists. Every decision is crucial; every mistake a disaster. There is drama galore in KISSING DAISY PARKER, but what turns out to matter the most are solitary moments of pitch dark desperation as well as small acts of kindness, honesty, and compassion.
Being a teenager is hard. It is even harder while growing up in a working-class town in the middle of nowhere. For many, adolescence is a time of stumbling around, testing one’s potential, searching for meaning and future. It is a frightening time. And yet, it is also the time of seemingly endless potential to explore, change, and grow.
In KISSING DAISY PARKER, Milton doesn’t shy away from dark subject matters lurking in the corners of adolescent life. However, he skillfully uses his wit to help us carry through. And if his writing style causes Daisy, Junaid, and Greg to all sound like wry adults instead of clumsy teenagers, I can’t hold that against him. His novel is far too enjoyable for that.
Michael Milton’s KISSING DAISY PARKER is smart, sad, and silly. This charming, poignant coming-of-age story depicts awkward shames and triumphant joys of adolescence in all of their hormone-fueled glory.
~Danijel Štriga for IndieReader