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Kissing in AmericaReview - Kissing in America
by Margo Rabb
HarperCollins, 2014
Review by Christian Perring
Apr 28th 2015 (Volume 19, Issue 18)

Eva Roth is 16, lives in NYC, and her father died in a plane crash several years previously. She and her mother hardly ever talk about her father, and her mother is very protective of Eva, not letting her take any risks. Eva is sick of living such a constrained life, but she is not sure how to break out of her existing patterns. Then she meets a boy, Will, who she likes, and they get on really well.  He is eccentric and open, and she is able to open up to him. But suddenly he moves to California, and she is distraught, so she becomes determined to find a way to visit him. Her friend Annie is extremely smart, so when Eva sees a competition called The Smartest Girl in America, which culminates in a TV show shot in Hollywood, she decides that this is how she will go and see Will. So Eva and Annie go on a road trip, by bus, staying with various family and family friends along the way.

So Kissing in America is about grief, mothers and daughters, romance, family, and friendship. Eva is an avid reader of romance novels, to the disappointment of her mother and mystification of her friends. It is an escape for her, and she knows that those romances are not real, but still, she seems a bit naïve about her romance with Will, who turns out to be difficult for her to communicate with when he is on the other side of the country. Eva deals with some of her emotions in a healthy way, by journaling with letters to her father, and this helps her process her desire to connect with him and have him in her life even though he is dead. One of the most moving subplots of this young adult novel is about the search for the bodies from the downed flight, which is at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Eva regularly logs on to the online forum for the families of those who died on that flight, and reads their posts about the search, and their reactions to it.  This theme of grief and how to come to terms with loss after a major airline accident give the novel its greatest emotional weight, and Rabb deals with the topic with a lot of sensitivity.

Meeting Eva's family on her cross-country road trip gives the novel a lot of energy; they are a colorful bunch and they are funny too, lightening what would otherwise be a rather dour story. Things turn out mostly well by the end, and we get a message that people can work through their problems, although there will be setbacks along the way. With many short chapters, the book is an easy read.

 

© 2015 Christian Perring

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York


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