Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye

For the final book in the series, Wendelin assumes the role of narrator. At first this change is jarring, but by the end of the book it makes sense. The titular kiss goodbye is meant for the author, and for the reader. Though Sammy’s spunky narration is missed, the series still pulls off a touching, sentimental end.

The Summary

When Sammy visits her former residence, the Senior Highrise, someone pushes her off the fire escape (and into a coma). Sammy’s friends, family, and the many wacky citizens of Santa Martina join together to catch Sammy’s attacker.

The Analysis

Kiss Goodbye is an 80s sitcom finale. Though plenty happens in it, and it resolves character stories, it takes too many trips down memory lane. Though I loved reading about Sammy’s impact on everyone in Santa Martina, I didn’t love the recaps. For that to be my only complaint about this book, however, says a lot about how effective it is as a series ender.

Sammy’s coma brings everyone to her side. We see the nuns from Sisters of Mercy, Elyssa and her mother from Runaway Elf, Lucinda and her pig from Curse of Moustache Mary, Andre and Gina from the Heavenly Hotel, Slammin’ Dave, Justice Jack…so many former secondary characters. A few people are oddly missing. Like Brandon McKenze…he played such a vital role early in the series it is almost weird how little we see him after Cold Hard Cash. The missing people, however, aren’t important. Sammy is important, and so many people in this town adore her, her attacker doesn’t stand a chance.

He lies in wait as a costumed hospital orderly, but fails to finish her off at every opportunity. People like Borsch, Billy, Lana and even Dusty Mike unknowingly guard her from becoming a murder victim. Then we have several perfect endings. Lana loosens up. Sammy and Casey have a fairytale ending when he is the first one to hear and see her awake. Marissa and Mikey might be watching their parents get a divorce, but they won’t be leaving Santa Martina. The Nightie Napper, a minor Highrise plotline for at least half the series, is revealed (and arrested). Oscar, the first criminal Sammy caught–all the way back in the Hotel Thief–is Sammy’s attacker. He is caught yet again by a group of kids wearing Sammy-inspired hightops. The series comes full circle from its beginning roots.

At the end of it all, after seeing all the good Sammy did for Santa Martina and after seeing how many people felt her influence and loved her, one goodbye remained. This journey was just as much about the author and reader love for Sammy as it was about Sammy herself. I didn’t quite understand when I first read this finale so many years ago. After rereading the series in on go, I recalled all the ways I grew up with Sammy, and how long she’s been in my life. And so, as Wendelin said her fourth wall breaking goodbye, I cried. There will never be another girl quite like Sammy for Wendelin to write, and never another girl for me to grow up with in the way I grew up with Sammy. In a way, Wendelin’s goodbye was also for the reader. Because, as Wendelin says in the final pages, Sammy “will always be the feisty, fearless, funny girl I love.” I’m thrilled she got to be part of my life.

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