The novel is about Elle Evans, a high school junior who has never kissed, dated, or had sex with any boy, despite being rather popular herself. This changes when she ends up having to kiss Noah Flynn, the school's quarterback and popular jock whom Elle had a crush on when she was a girl, during a kissing booth event that she sets up for the school carnival. Elle starts to fall in love with Noah, who, fortunately, reciprocates it.
Problem is, Noah happens to be the older brother of Lee Flynn, Elle's inseparable playmate since childhood. And Lee has stated from time to time that he can never picture her dating his brother.
Torn between her feelings for Noah and her friendship with Lee, Elle struggles to balance the two, knowing that for every day she is seeing Noah, she is lying to everyone else. Most importantly, her best friend.
It was adapted to a film with the same name by Netflix in 2018, starring Joey King as Elle, Joel Courtney as Lee, and Jacob Elordi as Noah. Following the film's success, Reekles authored a short story titled The Beach House in 2019, which expands on the epilogue of the original novel. Subsequently, she released a full-on sequel, Going the Distance, in 2020, focusing on Elle's Senior Year Struggles. It was adapted to The Kissing Booth 2, released the same year by Netflix. A third film, The Kissing Booth 3, was released in 2021, adapting the premise of The Beach House while giving it a new context.
The series provides examples of:
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Brad to Elle.
- Beach Episode: The Beach House is set in the Flynn family's beach house, where Elle, Noah, Lee, and Rachel spend the summer before Noah enters college.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Elle and Noah. Before the two fall in love, they always argue with each other over everything, to the point that Lee is worried that they would start killing each other if he does not intervene.
- Beta Couple: Lee and Rachel. In the first book, the two go out swimmingly, compared to Elle's constant struggle to keep her relationship with Noah a secret. This changes in the second book when their relationship starts to crack over their personal insecurities.
- Big Fancy House: The Flynns live in one.
- Bittersweet Ending: The first novel. Elle and Noah continue dating with Lee's approval, but Noah graduates and moves to Cambridge to attend Harvard, meaning the couple will be separated by thousands of miles. Elle is not sure whether their relationship can survive in the long run, but she will give it a try, and even if it doesn't, a part of her heart will always belong to Noah.
- Bros Before Hoes: When Elle has a falling out with Lee over her secret relationship, all she can think about is how to make up with him. She feels that while she can figure out a life without Noah, she can't do the same without Lee.
- Can't Hold His Liquor: The lightweight Elle, upon having a few drinks at the Flynns' party, publicly strips and nearly goes skinny dipping until Noah carries her into his room.
- Childhood Friend Romance: Elle had a crush on Noah when she was a girl, but decided to move on after realizing that he is way out of her league.
- Childhood Friends: Elle's mother was best friends with Lee's mother and since Elle was born literally the same time as Lee, they have been together ever since. By extension, she has long been acquainted with Noah, since the Flynn residence is basically her second home.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Noah, who gives a Death Glare to any boy who is hitting on Elle and verbal threats when they don't back off. Even her close friends Oliver and Warren aren't exempt.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Lee's nickname in the football team is "Little Flynn", which he hates because this means they always define him by his brother.
- In-Series Nickname: Rochelle "Elle" Evans. Noah and Lee sometimes call her "Shelly" to tease her.
- In Vino Veritas: When he gets drunk, Lee lashes out at Elle for continuing to nag him and becoming the third wheel in his relationship with Rachel, all because she is lonely without Noah.
- Ivy League for Everyone: The first book ends with Noah leaving to attend Harvard University. The second ends with Rachel attending Brown University. Elle briefly considers applying for Brown or Yale, but ends up going to UC Berkeley. Lee wants to join Rachel at Brown as well, but he doesn't get accepted and instead joins Elle at UC Berkeley.
- Jerk Jock:
- Noah, the school's quarterback, who is notorious for getting into fights and having relationships with many, many women. These traits slowly fade as he begins his relationship with Elle. It's later revealed that Noah consciously developed this image to counter his low self-esteem, because he was bullied once and resolved to never be weak again.
- Thomas, member of the soccer team, who sexually harasses Elle by grabbing her buttocks. Subverted with his fellow soccer player, Patrick, who forcibly tries to kiss Elle but is explicitly because he is drunk. After sobering up, he promptly apologizes to her.
- Lee slowly becomes this in the second book, after he enters the football team. However, it's later shown that he is never comfortable with it and only became a stereotypical jock because of societal pressure and being compared to Noah all the time. Elle calls nonsense on this, saying that he shouldn't have to conform to pressure of being an athlete and should be himself. Lee eventually agrees with her.
- Last-Name Basis: Noah is called "Flynn" by everyone except for his family. In the past, Elle used to tease him by calling him with his first name, but otherwise stuck with "Flynn". As a result, when she starts calling him "Noah" on a regular basis, everyone assumes that it's a sign of something going on between them.
- Long-Distance Relationship:
- After graduating from high school, Noah is accepted at and attends Harvard, despite Cambridge being on the other side of the country. His attempt to keep a healthy relationship with Elle, who is finishing her senior year in California, forms the main plot of Going the Distance. They eventually have a breakup, but this is because of a misunderstanding involving Amanda, Noah's female friend who seems to be getting closer with him. After the misunderstanding is cleared, they continue their LDR full-time, since Elle is accepted at UC Berkeley which is still in California.
- Levi tells Elle that his long relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Julie, ended when he moved from Michigan to California. Julie didn't think that long-distance relationship could ever work, as a result Levi began to think that way as well. Obviously, this feeds into Elle's insecurities regarding her own LDR with Noah.
- At the end of Going the Distance, Lee and Rachel are thrown into the same situation as Elle's and Noah's, as Lee doesn't get accepted to Brown and instead attends UC Berkeley, staying in California.
- Lovable Jock: Jon Fletcher, the new captain of the football team in Going the Distance. He helps Elle care for a drunken Lee after the football gathering at his house, brings her water while she is waiting for her father, and assures her that Lee didn't cheat on Rachel with another girl.
- Love-Obstructing Parents: Downplayed. Elle's father has trouble accepting her relationship with Noah, whom he sees as an irresponsible bad boy. However, since it all boils down to her decision, he eventually accepts it.
- Manly Tears: Noah, the hunky former quarterback, openly cries while apologizing to Elle for not telling her how he almost flunked college and making her think that he had a thing with Amanda at the end of Going the Distance.
- MasculineFeminine Gay Couple: For the Sadie Hawkins dance, Dixon says that he is going to ask out Danny from the basketball team, implying that he is the feminine gay to Danny's masculine one (though we never actually see Danny).
- Missing Mom: Elle's mother died in a car accident when she was 9. Although she has moved on from it, Elle sometimes laments that she got through her first period and bought her first bra without her mother being around.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Aside from his good looks, Noah is infamous in the school for getting into fights all the time. This actually affected his social life. While he has a reputation for womanizing, no woman wants to be in a long-term relationship with someone who is branded a troublemaker. Even one of girls who fawn over him, Karen, chickens out when she is actually given a chance to kiss him at the kissing booth.
- Offscreen Breakup: In the epilogue of Going the Distance, Elle offhandedly mentions that Dixon has broken up with Danny last January.
- One of the Boys: Elle is much more comfortable mingling with boys than girls, whose constant chatter she finds obnoxious. She attributes it to her growing up with the Flynn brothers since birth.
- Operation: Jealousy: During their reconciliation talk at the end of Going the Distance, Noah admits to Elle that he brought Amanda for Thanksgiving partly to make her feel envious and regret breaking up with him.
- Platonic Life-Partners: Elle and Lee are opposite-sex best friends, with Elle thinking that she can't imagine living a life without Lee. The Beach House makes it clear that they never see each other the romantic way, so when Elle is dared to kiss Lee on the lips, she considers it as disgusting as kissing a brother.
- Poor Communication Kills: Most of the conflicts in Going the Distance could have been avoided had Noah been honest with Elle about his struggles in college.
- Relationship Sabotage: Elle finds out that, by threatening any boy who was about to make a move on her, Noah has been sabotaging her romance her entire life. He claims that it is for her safety, but it's later made clear that this is because he is in love with her himself.
- Replacement Goldfish: In Going the Distance, Elle begins to see Levi as a replacement for the Flynns, as Noah is away while Lee grows increasingly distant because of his relationship with Rachel and commitment to the football team.
- Secret Relationship: Elle and Noah in the first book, as the former doesn't have the heart to tell Lee that she is dating his brother.
- Shipper on Deck:
- Despite spending the first book opposing their relationship, it's Lee who tells Elle to give Noah the benefit of the doubt when compromising photos of him and his Harvard friend Amanda are spread.
- Levi's little sister Rebecca supports him hooking up with Elle.
- After Amanda tells Elle that she considers Noah as a younger brother she has to help and not someone she loves, she asks Elle to speak to him before they return back to Cambridge, implicitly wanting them to reconcile.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: The tall, muscular, and raven-haired Noah Flynn is the school heartthrob.
- Third Wheel: Elle becomes this in Lee's relationship with Rachel. Both are rather frustrated at her for this, and Lee actually calls Elle with the exact words during his drunken tirade at Jon Fletcher's party. Ironically, she ends up having to salvage their relationship when it crumbles during the football team's secret gathering, staying with Lee until he is sober and can ask for Rachel's forgiveness and taking Rachel for a girls' night out.Elle: Third wheel, my ass.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: Elle is frequently mesmerized by Noah's and Lee's electric blue eyes.