TRY TO KISS A GIRL

(Available for pre-order now. Pub date: July 1, 2014)

“Kiss a girl before the week is over? Impossible. Girls were dangerous mysterious people. Kissing was a game for older boys. It takes years of preparation and study, like getting a drivers license. And a lot of guys fail parallel parking.”

“Warm and funny, Kevin Killeen’s Try to Kiss a Girl takes us on a memorable Michigan summer’s exploration of boys wanting to grow up faster than time, and girls having the good sense to run away!”
- Ridley Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of suspense novels for adults and adventure novels for children

“Try to Kiss a Girl will bring you back to your youthful days. It’s a fun read.”
- George Noory, host of the nationally syndicated Coast to Coast AM radio show

Check out this great interview with Kevin Killeen in the Ladue News.


Try to Kiss a Girl
The antics of Patrick Cantwell and his family, featured in the award-winning Never Hug a Nun, return as they head to Grand Haven, Michigan for summer vacation. After another boy reveals the facts of  life–complete with pictures from the encyclopedia–Patrick’s entire worldview changes and suddenly the idea of spending a week fishing and playing games with the family seems a lot less appealing. Patrick and his new friend decide to make a bet to see who can kiss a girl before the end of the week. As a troublesome little sister, biker gangs, and parents get in the way, Patrick wonders if he’ll have a chance to even talk to a girl, let alone kiss one. With the same endearing humor and energy as Never Hug a Nun, readers will be sure to love Try to Kiss a Girl.

 

Here’s an excerpt:

- chapter one -

 

THE FAMILY STATION WAGON with luggage piled on top soared up Interstate 57 through an infinity of Illinois corn. Dad, Mom, and all five kids were bound for a week of summer vacation in the lusty resort town of Grand Haven, Michigan. With pistons cranking, oil and antifreeze suffering, and new tires humming, the Buick sliced through wavy mirages of heat rising off the pavement. Passing trucks growled. Farm smells made the boys yell, “Gross!” This was the desperately hot middle of the ride, and the whole Cantwell family was wilting.

“Can we please turn on the air conditioner?” Mom mumbled again, feeling every bit of eight months pregnant.

“Oh, I’d love to. Believe me,” Dad said, “but in this heat? I don’t want to break down and have my family stranded in the middle of—”

“I know, I know,” Mom moaned, closing her eyes to try to nap. But every few seconds the tires went over a pavement seam with a thump, thump while the baby kicked her ribs along with the rhythm. Dad tapped at the temperature gauge as if he could keep the engine cool from the driver’s seat. Baking in the middle seat, the younger kids—Teddy, Elizabeth, and baby Joey—endured the heat with blinking eyes and faces pink from the oven breeze blasting through the open windows. Every window in the car was open, even the way back window where the two oldest kids, John and Patrick, sat facing backwards.

“How about this?” Patrick said, holding up an empty Wonder Bread bag. It had been a long time since they’d stopped to go to the bathroom. Now with his bladder full from sneaking an extra orange soda from the cooler, Patrick held the Wonder Bread bag open and looked out the rear window like a tail gunner on a B-24 watching the landscape speed away in reverse.

“Sure, why not,” John said.

Patrick got on his knees and unzipped, while John checked the bag for holes. John was the cool, older brother—just a year older—but he knew how to maintain a confident, John Lennon expression during a crisis. Patrick spied up front to see if anyone was watching. Mom was half asleep with her red hair blowing in the wind. Dad chewed on a businessman’s breath mint, jaw muscles clenching and unclenching, while his eyes squinted back and forth from the road to the temperature gauge. He was always chewing those breath mints because a dad with a downtown executive job was under a lot of stress. In the middle seat, Teddy, Elizabeth, and baby Joey sat looking forward and didn’t know anything.

“I don’t see any holes,” John said, “but if it springs a leak, stop going.”

Patrick opened fire into the Wonder Bread bag. It was a breezy, good, sneaky feeling to pee inside a moving car, like filling up a water balloon to throw at a teacher at the school picnic. Patrick zipped up and took his turn holding the bag so John could go. John was a good aim and didn’t get any on Patrick’s hands. The more he peed, the heavier the bag got.

“Just don’t drop it in the car,” John whispered.

John was half finished when Elizabeth reared her head over the seat back, like Godzilla peeking over a row of burning buildings. She was only three, but she could blow flames and destroy the boys with a single word to Mom or Dad. She leaned over boxes of Pampers stuffed between the middle and the way back seat. John wanted to stop peeing but couldn’t. No boy could. They could have had a game show on TV called Try to Stop Peeing for a Thousand Dollars, and no boy would ever win. Patrick felt that fast-heart-beat fear like in the principal’s office. He was sure Elizabeth would scream and Dad would slam on the brakes, the car would screech to a halt, and Mom would yell at them while the bag of pee sloshed everywhere. But Elizabeth was so little she didn’t know anything was wrong. She thought seeing boys peeing into Wonder Bread bags was just part of the color and movement and birdsong of life.

“Sit back down, Elizabeth,” John whispered, smiling.

She smiled and slid back down in the middle seat looking forward.

“We better hurry up,” Patrick whispered.

John and Patrick peeked up front again. With Mom asleep, Dad was looking to the side at a faded, falling-apart barn. The boys might have been making a hydrogen bomb in the way back seat and he wouldn’t know. Dad looked at the barn and wondered who died and what happened to their family. Did they stick together? Or scatter? Dad was imagining the farmer’s family, years ago, all together saying grace, having dinner and drinking milk during the Great Depression. It’s a sad reminder, Dad thought, rubbing his neck. The old barn didn’t remind Patrick of anything, but working downtown made dads worry about everything.

“All clear,” John whispered.

Patrick closed the top of the Wonder Bread bag and spun it around tight. Together, they lifted it out the out the back window and let it go.
SGPESHHHHHHH! Their bomb hit the hot pavement and exploded. Millions of pee drops bounced and sparkled on the highway like a galaxy expanding on public television. The boys couldn’t believe it. A huge, golden vapor cloud rose up and shrouded the road behind them—obscuring everything except for a black speck in the distance.

“Uh-oh,” John said. “Bikers!”

The motorcycle gang, clad in black leather and fringe, raced toward the vapor cloud, their chrome wheels spinning in the sun. “Duck!” Patrick said as he dove below the window with John right beside him. They stared at each other, eyes wide, and listened as the motorcycle engines roared. Dad looked in the rearview mirror and called out, “We need gas. Anyone feel like stopping?”

“No!” John and Patrick yelled together as the middle seat kids whined for a stop. Daring a peek out the back window, John and Patrick saw the gang in sunglasses and red bandanas blaze into the sparkling urine mist. The empty Wonder Bread bag whipped off the tire of the lead bike and stuck on the hot tailpipe of another motorcycle. The boys ducked back down behind a row of sand buckets and beach towels.

“Shit, they could be Hell’s Angels,” John whispered.

“Hell’s what?”

“Hell’s Angels! Don’t you know anything?”

“Is that bad?”

“They’ll probably kill us.”

Patrick pulled his zipper up all the way to hide any evidence of recent urination. John tugged at the bangs of his Beatle haircut. “They’ll probably beat Dad to death with chains,” he whispered, “then kidnap the rest of us and kill us later.”

The station wagon approached an exit ramp, and Dad flipped on the Buick’s turn signal. BLINK-BLOCK, BLINK-BLOCK, BLINK-BLOCK. Patrick turned around to see where they were going. Rising above the trees, a SHELL sign came into view. But something was wrong—the “S” was missing.

“Hell,” Patrick said reading the sign aloud.

They were going to HELL.

“Oh, God.” He ducked back down and squeezed his eyes shut. “Please let them keep going, please, please, please,” he prayed in his mind, “and I promise I won’t do anything bad the whole trip.”

The gang was right behind them as the station wagon slowed to take the exit ramp.

Patrick listened. He knew if the motorcycle engines grew fainter, it meant they were safe. But if they got louder, the whole family would get killed.

The engines got louder—and louder and louder.

A dread like death row before midnight descended on the way back seat. All appeals were exhausted. The boys couldn’t stand it. They looked up to face their doom and saw a miracle. Apparently, the bikers didn’t realize what had happened. The gang was staying on the highway, as the station wagon veered off. Patrick watched the lead biker, a Viking-like fat man with a red beard. Sitting behind him, with her arms wrapped around his waist, was a woman in a halter-top. Her long braid whipped in the wind as the motorcycles shot under a bridge, and the Buick rose off the interstate like a B-24 lifting through the clouds after a bombing run. The family was safe.

“I’m proud of you all for holding it so long,” Dad called out. “Time to tinkle.”