I heard of Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach on Twitter thanks to some Londoners who had skipped their bus stops because of how much they were enjoying reading the book. So I contacted Francesca Main and she kindly sent me a review copy.
When Leila discovers the Web site 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 Web site’s founder, a brilliant and elusive man named Adrian. Leila is thrilled when Adrian asks to meet her, 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 e-mail, 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, to others, for good, and for ill.
The first thing I need to say is that I finished this book about a week ago but I decided to give myself time to think about it. Both Naomi from Writes of Woman and I agree that although this book is much-loved on the Twitsphere we were not so impressed by it. Also, we both agree it is a dark novel and it explores some of the issues of our technology era that had never been explored before.
The most remarkable theme is the inscription of technology and social media in the story and how they play a key role. I have heard many times that Romeo and Juliet would not be dead had they had mobile phones. So, Kiss Me First addresses directly how technology and social media have changed us and especially, the way we interact. Facebook, Skype and online forums become the means to a story that could not be possible ten years ago. As someone born in the late 80’s and who has experienced and benefited from the technological revolution of the past ten years, I can see the appeal of the story, but I do not know if older generations would. For the main character, her Facebook friends are a constant source of worry, an issue not even someone in the twenties like me can understand. For this reason, I saw Kiss Me First as a YA novel which is not one of my favourite genres partly because I feel like I cannot connect with the characters.
Regarding the story as a mystery or a thriller, I felt it could have been more twisted and definitely darker. Online impersonation and who hides behind their online personalities can be one of the creepiest themes in nowadays’ fiction. Can we really trust who we talk to? Also, the consequences of having an online personality as a kind of alter ego could have been explored with more psychological insight.
So, did I enjoy reading Kiss Me First? Yes, it is a very addictive book and also very easy to read. I can understand why commuters would skip their stops, but it was not as right up my alley as I thought.