Book Review: Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Category: Contemporary Fiction
Author: Lottie Moggach
Format: Trade Paperback, 312 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pub Date: July 9, 2013
Summary from Publisher:
A chilling and intense first novel, this is the story of a solitary young woman drawn into an online world run by a charismatic web guru who entices her into impersonating a glamorous but desperate woman.
When Leila discovers the website Red Pill, she feels she has finally found people who understand her. A sheltered young woman raised by her mother, Leila has often struggled to connect with the girls at school; but on Red Pill, a chat forum for ethical debate, Leila comes into her own, impressing the website’s founder, a brilliant and elusive man named Adrian. Leila is thrilled when Adrian asks to meet her, and is flattered when he invites her to be part of “Project Tess.”
Tess is a woman Leila might never have met in real life. She is beautiful, urbane, witty, and damaged. As they email, chat, and Skype, Leila becomes enveloped in the world of Tess, learning every single thing she can about this other woman–because soon, Leila will have to become her.
An ingeniously plotted novel of stolen identity, Kiss Me First is brilliantly frightening about the lies we tell–to ourselves, and to others, for good, and for ill.
Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet
Kiss Me First, a debut novel by Lottie Moggach, is a creative and surprising story with a wonderfully original plot about two, very different women:
Leila, young, intelligent, yet fiercely logical, and somewhat sheltered in her experiences that she not only considers herself a social outcast, but is attracted to and driven to the isolation and comfort of the online forums hosted by an addictive, philosophical website called Red Pill.
And Tess, a vibrant, charismatic woman whose hunger for attention only temporarily masks her need for solitude and anonymity, who experiences the severity of both mood-changing symptoms as a result of the extremity found in those with bipolar disorder.
While one woman’s life is too emotionally buoyant that she decides the only way to cope is to commit suicide, another woman’s life is so isolated that she not only considers herself insignificant, but she also seriously considers taking on another person’s identity entirely.
The two women literally connect through the Internet to devise a plan, which suits both their different needs, and in doing so, test the boundaries of what is considered to be morally correct.
The first-person narrative easily reveals the dichotomy of the two women while its readability makes the mysterious plot not only believable, but also well-paced and engaging.
Readers engage the narrative as their own, fully immersing themselves in the characters’ neurosis, empathizing with the realism in which the work is written.
For a debut novel, the writing is convincing: both distinct voices reveal the neurosis the characters inhabit, it reveals the inner workings of bipolar disorder, and the danger of the role technology continues to play in our lives, in how people can prefer to hide or create virtual realities for themselves instead of fully participating in the real world.
While the characters are interesting enough, it’s the creative plot that will reel its readers in—and then twist them about in surprise, from its trip to disease and hospital, to an apartment above an Indian restaurant, to a freestyle commune, the virtual philosophies of Red Pill, to the head space of an online, intimate, and secret romance.
The story blurs the lines between where a person ends and another person begins, and puts to question the autonomy someone has over his or her life, the ethics associated with suicide and euthanasia, and the dangers of isolation, insecurity, and the impressibility of youth, and those who would take advantage of the vulnerable.
Readers may feel conflicted about the choices the characters feel compelled to make, the morality and/or immorality surrounding those choices, and question the ease in which fraud can take place because of society’s trust with online activity and the Internet.
Overall, the book is a wonderful surprise filled with emotional drama, dilemma, and virtual love, and compromise. For anyone who enjoys reading contemporary fiction and is interested in the mystery of bipolar disorder, the moral issues associated with suicide and euthanasia, the subtext of complicated relationships, and the growing immersion of society in technology, and the ease in which people can become prey to their insecurities, The First Kiss, by Lottie Moggach, is a poignant and disturbing novel.
Characters: 4 stars
Pacing: 4 stars
Cover Design: 2.5 stars
Plot: 4.5 stars
A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of Doubleday Canada for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an unpaid, honest review.
About the Author:
Lottie Moggach is a journalist who has written for The Times, Financial Times, Time Out, Elle, GQ and The London Paper. She lives in north London. Kiss Me First is her first novel.
– From the Goodreads website.
Do you feel people should have autonomy over their bodies and lives to the point of allowing and/or encouraging them to commit suicide, should they feel the need to?
How would you feel about impersonating someone else at risk of losing your own identity? Would you or wouldn’t you do it?
How much time do you spend on the Internet? What do you think is a healthy/unhealthy amount of time to spend on the Internet?