For the past couple weeks, Nellwyn Lampert’s delectable memoir, Every Boy I Ever Kissed, has been travelling with me as I move around Toronto. In a coffee shop on Dundas West, I chuckled aloud, reading about her disastrous first dance, when she made the mistake of wearing a turtleneck and tried to remain cool while overheating. Lying in Grange Park, I devoured the chapter where she outlines her plans to make it known that she wants to have sex, including the first sexy text message she ever sent, which was way outside her comfort zone. On the 501 Queen Westbound, I got upset for her as she detailed the conversation she had with a doctor who instilled in her a sense of shame when she asked for birth control. Her endearing writing makes me feel a lot of things, but mostly it makes me smile, constantly reminding me of my own stumbles through youth that looked nothing like the romances that typically played out on screen, or in the pages of Sweet Valley High.

Before I lost my virginity, I would watch Stealing Beauty and pray that the first time I had sex would be similar to the way Liv Tyler boned an Italian boy on a mountaintop in Tuscany. It looked like nothing like that; instead, I found myself requesting (practically begging) to have sex with my neighbour, who really didn’t seem to want to fuck me. The day after the deed was done, I ran into the office of my English teacher and cried, “It wasn’t like what I thought it would be like!!!” I feel like Nellwyn and I have some things in common. While our experiences don’t necessary look the same, we have both endured many awkward, and often disappointing, encounters.

Unlike most coming-of-age stories, there’s nothing sensational about Nellwyn’s love life, and she certainly cannot be easily typecast as the slut or the prude, labels that are so typically thrust upon women. (Which one is she? She must be one or the other!) Frankly, Nellwyn has had a lot of bad luck, but it’s incredibly relatable, and there’s much to be learned in the nuances of her interactions.

Smart, tender and funny, Every Boy I Ever Kissed is just that, a chronological telling of every intimate interaction Nellwyn has had, but more than that, it is an intelligent exploration on how we learn to be with others while staying true to ourselves. Rewinding through her own love life, evaluating moments in time against the cultural context of each era, Nellwyn draws numerous interesting conclusions about modern-day romance, one being that sex and love for the millennial generation has been irrevocably altered by technology. While Tinder might have you believing otherwise, we’re having way less sex than the baby boomers! 

Nellwyn’s ability to gracefully weave feminist theory into this charming memoir makes Every Boy I Ever Kissed both an enjoyable and intelligent read, one where we’re inspired to pause and evaluate our own love lives on every other page. It’s the kind of book that will have you circling and highlighting passages. In fact, failing to have a pen, I began using my “Damned” red Nars Lipstick Crayon to circle bits that I wanted to come back to. There are many, but here’s one that encapsulates a lot:

“The power we feel we get from harnessing a sexual identity is about more than just having a satisfying sex life and making a feminist statement. It translates into all areas of our lives, becoming inherently linked to how we perceive ourselves. Overt displays of sexual liberation don’t only signify empowerment, they also tell the world (and ourselves) that we are confident, self-actualized, desirable, beautiful, independent, and above all else: lovable.”

A refreshing take on today’s female sexuality, Every Boy I Ever Kissed is a delightful read with loads of sweet life stories that hit different points of maturity, but it also gives readers big chunky ideas to stew on; after all, a kiss is never just a kiss.