Friday, April 25, 2014

Best Kiss Scenes and What Makes Them Great

Last time on Ship Shape: When Opposites Attract

I've been thinking about kiss scenes lately, because when am I not, honestly? Last week I talked about one of my favorite series of all time, The Immortals by Tamora Pierce, and mentioned that one of the reasons i feel so in love with it as a preteen was a certain seminal kiss scene. I even shared a snippet.

So that got me thinking about what my other favorite kiss scenes are, and why they're my favorites. What makes them so great? So special? I've read hundreds of kiss scenes in my life. What is it about these that makes them stick in my mind? And so I basically ended up writing and anaylitical paper on the art of the kiss scene. Do join me. Swoons abound.

This is a very spoiler-heavy post. I've highlighted all spoilers in white. To see them, simply highlight the text with your cursor. Every book cited comes with a direct quote and some analysis.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater


GOD, THIS SCENE. It is fraught with spoilers, tragic spoilers, but it is such a beautiful moment for the two characters involved that I can't even find the words.

Spoiler starts--->Placing an elbow on either side of her head, Noah leaned close and kissed her. This time, it was more of a thought than a feeling, a soft heat that began at her mouth and unfurled through the rest of her. One of his cold hands slid behind her neck and he kissed her again, lips parted. It was not just a touch, an action. It was a simplification of both of them. They were no longer Noah Czerny and Blue Sargent. They were just him and her. Not even that. They were only the time they held between them

Oh, thought Blue. So this is what I can't have.

It means something so great and personal for Noah and Blue. It's not really a romantic kiss, since they don't really have feelings for each other (he's kind of dead, and she has this whole curse thing where whoever she kisses will die), but if circumstances were different, maybe... They engage in this kiss because kissing is something Blue can never have and it's something Noah will never have again. She's safe from his curse, and she's one of the only people who can see and touch him, and my heart. <---Spoiler ends. My poor bruised and battered heart.

Kiss rating: M for MY EMOTIONS

Ignite Me by Taherah Mafi


I allllmost went with the infamous Chapter 62 in Unravel Me, but after much dithering, I decided my favorite kiss scene from this series was in Ignite Me.

Spoiler starts--->Stop everything for the moment he crosses the room and pulls me in his arms and pins me against the wall and I'm spinning and standing and not even breathing but i'm alive so alive so very very alive
and he's kissing me.

It's the kind of kiss that inspires stars to climb into the sky and light up the world. The kind that takes forever and no time at all.

First of all: HOT. HOT. HOTTEST HOT. HOT DAMN HOT. Mafi goes WOW on the visceral details, letting you know whose hands are where, but this is also a HUGE moment for Juliette and Warner emotionally. It's the first time they're both totally and honest to each other (and to their mondo attraction). It starts with her telling him she loves him and then he just takes her in his arms <---Spoiler ends and my God I think I need to put the book down and walk to the kitchen and get some ice water.

Kiss rating: H for HOTCHACHA

So, students of YA kiss scenes, what have we learned so far? Swoony swooness and emotional heart. Both are important.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins


This is my favorite kiss scene in the entire series, which is, you know, generally pretty grim and fraught and whatnot. And while this scene certainly takes place under tense, life-or-death circumstances, I also just love how real it is.

Spoiler starts--->So before he can talk, I stop his lips with a kiss.
I feel that thing again. The thing I only felt once before. In the cave last year, when I was trying to get Haymitch to send us food. I kissed Peeta about a thousand times during those Games and after. But there was only one kiss that made me feel something stir deep inside. Only one that made me want more.
The sensation inside me grows warmer and spreads out from my chest, down through my body, out along my arms and legs, to the tips of my being. Instead of satisfying me, the kisses have the opposite oeffect, of making my need greater. I thought I was something of an expert on hunger, but this is an entirely new kind.

It's the moment she realizes her feelings for Peeta are or might be or could be REAL! it's not until he mentions the fake baby again do the presence of the cameras make any impact on their actions and feelings. She feels a spark. (Her loins are catching fire). This kiss follows the moment Peeta shows her the pictures of her family and Gale he has in his locket to convince her to fight for her own life. That she has things besides him to live for. And she tells him she needs him.<---Spoiler ends The paaaaain.

Kiss rating: O for OTP (sorry Other Teamers)

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


Hello, kiss is in the title. You just know the kissing in this book is going to be good. I had two kisses to choose from here, and after much (and I really do mean much) deliberating, I chose the following:

He closes his eyes. Our lips brush lightly.
"If you ask me to kiss you, I will," he says.
His fingers stroke the inside of my wrists, and I burst into flames.
"Kiss me," I say.
He does.

Spoiler starts--->AHHHH. My God, did this book make you suffer and wait for this moment. Even the moment makes you suffer and wait. This book totally nails that slow burn thing, drawing it out just long enough that the moment where Anna and Etienne finally come together just explodes. (Well, not so finally. The finally before the finally)<---Spoiler ends

Kiss rating: J for JUST KISS ALREADY

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

People don't talk about the kiss scene in this one because there are so many other brilliant things occurring in this book, and the romance is really just a subplot, but it's a sublot I happen to adore. I love what it means for Seraphina's character growth. And oh, is it just a transcendent kiss.

If I could keep a single moment for all time, that would be the one.

I became the very air; I was full of stars. I was the soaring spaces between the spires of the cathedral, the solemn breath of chimneys, a whispered prayer upon the winter wind. I was silence, and I was music, one clear transcendent chord rising toward Heaven. I believed, then, that I would have risen bodily into the sky but for the anchor of his hand in my hair and his round, soft, perfect mouth.

I love how most of this out of body, mid-kiss experience is about Seraphina and how full of feeling she is. How she's gone from someone ashamed of herself and her heritage to "full of stars", having achieved this one small moment of perfect happiness. It's... well, perfect.

Kiss rating: Y for YOU GO GIRL

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi


"That was my first kiss," she said. "My first real one."

No need to white out any spoilers here, since that's the only quote I'm sharing. But that's because it's such a quote. Technically, Aria says it right after the kiss occurs, but it gives so much meaning. Aria has spent her life in the Realms, aka a virtual reality where none of your experiences are real experiences. This kiss, this physical contact, is the first real thing she's ever done. The first time it has an impact, and she makes a lasting choice, and she lives her life.

Kiss rating: T for TURNING POINT

Other notable-to-me kiss scenes: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson, Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard, Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan, To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas, Lady Thief by A.C Gaughen.

We get SENSORY DETAILS, but not to the point of purple prose or bodice-rippers. But most importantly, we get a sense of what it means to the characters and the relationship being changed by the kiss. We get the feelings and the thoughts of the characters involved. The kisses that mean something in literature aren't cheap kisses, but earned ones.

Also, I get feels. If I get the feeeels and the swoooons and if I make squealy sort of sound, then I know that kiss scene is doing just what it should.

What kiss scenes worked best for you? What do you think a great kiss scene needs? Please be respectful of huge spoilers.


  1. This post speaks to me. LOL! I agree that a good kissing scenes has details. I don't want it to say "and then we kissed" or "he kissed me" and be done with it. No no no no! I want to know what's going on and what it means!

    Every Tahereh Mafi kissing scene is my favorite, honestly, and I still think Chapter 62 is my fav, because it's so SAD. But I also liked the shower one in book 1, because uhh it's hot. lol I also totally loved the one in CROWN OF EMBERS because HECTOR! And the one in the epilogue of CLOCKWORK PRINCESS. ALL THE EMOTIONSSSSSSS!!!! I cried. Seriously. That epilogue slaughtered me.

  2. Plain and simple, I know a kiss scene is working for me if my stomach starts doing cartwheels and I'm feeling butterflies. So yeah, pretty much all the scenes that you picked (of the books I've read). ESPECIALLYYYY Dream Thieves and Anna and the French Kiss. Sigh. I do love all the kissing in Untold and Crown of Midnight and Crown of Embers as well. Hottt. And I got mega butterflies reading The Distance Between Us last night! I love the sensory details, the slow burn, the feeling like YOU'RE the one experiencing the kiss. It's intoxicating and gives me a big goofy grin. Great post :D

  3. THE IGNITE ME KISS. Yes yes yes to everything you said. Now I want to reread just for this sizzling and BEAUTIFUL moments between those two. <3 <3 <3 And your previous post about The Immortals!! I loved that series so much growing up I can't count how many times I read them. Another I want to reread. I'll have to check a few of the others out, I'm intrigued!

  4. I loved this post!!! I'm a big hopeless romantic, so I love kiss scenes in tv shows, movies,and of course books!! I cannot wait for it to happen and I always imagine it will happen in a certain way and hope its perfect.Sometimes I get let down because it happens to quickly or not romantic enough haha. I've only read Anna and the French Kiss and Ignite Me and Catching Fire and agree with all those beautiful moments!! The scene with Thorne and Cress from Cress by Marissa Meyer is perfect, (if you haven't read that series yet, HIGHLY recommend!!) Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas LOVE CHAOL!!!, and the one in Attachments by Rainbow Rowell was cute, and loved the kissing scenes in Making Faces by Amy Harmon... can't think of others right now! But this was cute :)

  5. I LOVE a good kissing scene, but I'm sad to say I've only read ONE of these books - Anna and the French Kiss. I also popped on over to you post about Tamora Pierce's books and I haven't read that either! So BAD! I clearly need to read these so I can get to the kissing scenes. :)

  6. THE DREAM THIEVES! Dies. I adored that kiss. Did not make me swoony. But I loved it, cause as you say, so heartbreaking. Sniffs. Thank you for sharing :)

  7. I skipped the Ignite Me kiss because I still haven't read the book, but OW OW OW DREAM THIEVES MY HEARRRRRRT.

  8. That scene from Catching Fire... oh my heart! Love it!

  9. I haven't read Dream Thieves, but I read it anyway and OMG MY HEART. I need to go read that book NOW.

    I'd like to add the scene from Alienated by Melissa Landers. I needed some ice water after that - it was all about the anticipation and the seduction of it, without being a bodice-ripper. Basically, the most erotic kiss I've ever read in YA, yet all the clothes stay on. When I closed the book I seriously thought - "I need to get myself a boyfriend and try that." Still no boyfriend, but it's on my bucket list :D

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  11. I LOVE ALL THESE KISSES!!!! ugh that dream thieves one kills me every. single. time. now i'm going to go through all my books and find good kisses to share with you :) also - I have been remiss in reading Tamora Pierce - I actually looked at the list of books, but wasn't sure where to start so you will need to guide me!!

    best. list. ever.

  12. The dream thieves kiss *cries* It was such a beautiful and sad situation.

  13. I literally scrolled down to see if you mentioned CROWN OF MIDNIGHT. Because that one is IMPORTANT. But yes, you've picked some really great kissing scenes! My favorite of the excerpts you posted? The one from Catching Fire, because HELLO SHIP I SEE YOU THERE.


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