Published by Penguin Australia on May 26, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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In the two years since her father died, sixteen-year-old Eva has found comfort in reading romance novels—118 of them, to be exact—to dull the pain of her loss that’s still so present. Her romantic fantasies become a reality when she meets Will, who seems to truly understand Eva’s grief. Unfortunately, after Eva falls head-over-heels for him, he picks up and moves to California without any warning. Not wanting to lose the only person who has been able to pull her out of sadness—and, perhaps, her shot at real love—Eva and her best friend, Annie, concoct a plan to travel to the west coast to see Will again. As they road trip across America, Eva and Annie confront the complex truth about love.
In this honest and emotional journey that National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr calls “gorgeous, funny, and joyous,” readers will experience the highs of infatuation and the lows of heartache as Eva contends with love in all of its forms.
Kissing in America is a story about a girl with unrealistic expectations of love, from reading too many romance novels.
Sound familiar? Eva was quite relatable, being cautious in every other area of her life but love. She’s been pining over a guy for a long time, who she develops a genuine friendship with. But when he breaks up with his popular girlfriend and kisses Eva, she believes she’s in love and goes on a roadtrip across the country just to reunite with him.
I can stand back and criticise Eva for her actions or I can feel for her plight. She genuinely believes she’s in love, not having anything else to go by but the relationships she’s witnessed in her romance novels, where heroes and heroines would move the world just to be with each other. While Eva’s grand scheme sounded silly and obsessive, she really doesn’t know any better and my younger self can relate to that naivety.
“Grief isn’t like a map you can follow. It’s not a simple route with a destination. Sometimes you loop back and find yourself in the exact same place you left.”
With a father who has died from a plane crash, never really giving Eva and her mother closure, and her mother’s cold and callous way of coping with things while further distancing herself from her teenage daughter, Eva wants to believe that there is some good in her life.
I really felt for Eva, she’s normally anxious in every sense of the world but even I could have told her what she’d be waiting for at the other end of the line. The good thing is that during her road trip with her best friend and her aunty Janet, she did some soul searching along the way while finding out what the greater country has to offer her. As they road trip through Texas, Cleveland, Tucson, and finally LA, we get to experience cowboys, diners and the different personalities these towns can offer.
Most importantly, Eva got to move through her grief, repair her relationship with her mother and find out some real home truths about the people she should really be focusing on.
I’d thought the blank page was a giant slab of raw pain, but once I was inside it, it was like looking off to the side during a horror movie, realizing that all that fear isn’t necessary or real. That’s what writing did, what I’d forgotten: how it unraveled the tangled feelings and wove them into something new.
Kissing in America is quite a slow novel, with a big journey in between with lots of travelling and experiencing of each small town and the different people Eva would meet along the way. It’s less about the end game and more about the journey. Although it offered some really great reflective moments about grief and longing, with fantastic realistic character building for Eva, I wasn’t really invested in her plight and the slow draggy journey along the way.
But I liked the ending and how the whole thing felt realistic. Because real life works very differently to fiction which we’ve all learnt the hard way.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy.