Mouth to mouth

14th February 1997 at 00:00
A COMPLETE GUIDE TO KISSING By Nick Fisher Macmillan Pounds 3.50. THE EXILES IN LOVE By Hilary McKay Gollancz Pounds 10.99. Geraldine Brennan on games of kiss and promise.

Nick Fisher's title is misleading - he says nothing about the dreaded "mwah! mwah!" ritual (one side? two sides? twice one side and once the other?). Just Seventeen's agony uncle has, however, written a playful, informative, sensible guide to mouth suction.

The interviews at the back are grimly compelling for adult readers, reawakening all those blissfully long-buried memories: "He kept sticking his tongue into my mouth. Then he said 'I think we'd better leave it at that' and walked away"; "How do you tell when it's time to stop snogging?" (Metallica fan, 14); "She just turned to me and said 'I'm not going to snog you y'know'". But for those in training for the first kiss, or recovering from it, this section underlines the book's "you are not alone" comfort value.

Fisher is straightforward and unpatronising, explaining not only how to kiss, but how to be-have down to the follow-up phone call which etiquette demands. Hand or eye kissing is in; love bites - "originally a nice idea", says one interviewee - are out.

Even those who think all passion is spent will learn something. Fisher's recipe for an "electric kiss" requires a warm summer night and two pairs of nylon socks. As the Mirror's star-crossed Perishers, Marlon and Maisie, would say, "Yeeuch!".

Such allegedly earth-moving behaviour is often more fun in retrospect or anticipation. In the third warm, witty Exiles novel from Hilary McKay, the four Conroy sisters put romance into perspective as they look back on a summer of love with the wisdom of hindsight through cleverly structured flashbacks.

Dreamy, bookish Ruth displays the classic symptoms of sweaty palms, palpitations and mute misery as she sighs over the unwitting bus driver and the butcher's boy, wondering all along if she should stick with Mr Rochester. Rachel - a textbook case - pursues the French exchange student to Brittany, where Big Grandma seems to be smitten too.

McKay has created a boisterous, chaotic family which always makes me want to rush out and adopt three sisters. Their collective charm will sweep some early teens off their feet and lure them away from more vacuous Valentine reads (although a less wholesome cover might help here). To the Conroys, real life is where the action is and grand passions are mere wallpaper - which is just as it should be.

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