I loved romances because when you opened the first page, you knew the story would end well. Your heart wouldn't be broken. I loved that security, that guaranteed love.
In real life, you never knew the ending. I hated that.
Sixteen-year-old Eva has never been in love. But when she meets Will, everything changes. With him, her grief over her father's death fades, and she can escape from her difficult relationship with her mother. Then, without any warning, Will picks up and moves to California. So Eva—with the help of her best friend, Annie—concocts a plan to travel across the country to see him again. As they leave New York City for the first time and road-trip across America, they encounter cowboys, kudzu, and tiny towns without stoplights. Along the way, Eva and Annie learn the truth about love and all its complexities.
When I first read the summary of the book, I was excited to finally have a main character who loved romance novels as much as I do. Eva has found solace in romances after her father died and those novels definitely influence how she views romance in real life. I couldn't wait to meet Eva and relate to her utter love of romance novels.
For the past two years, 16-year-old Eva has been grieving over her father's death while her mother has buried herself in work and refused to discuss her father anymore. As if he never existed at all. Eva still can't move on, so she buries herself in romance novels as a way to escape the world. Her romances, though, create notions in her head about her own life and she soon finds herself head over heels in love with Will, a boy who understands her loss and grief. So when Will announces he has to move to California for the summer, Eva makes a plan to take a road trip across the country with her best friend to compete in a reality show just to see Will again. Along the way, Eva discovers things about herself, her family, and her grief.
First off, this book deals a lot with grief and it's so sad to see how Eva and her mother differed in their grief over the loss of Eva's father. Eva is struggling so much inside and it seems like her mother doesn't even care. In reality, though, her mom just deals with the grief in a different way, which is really hard for Eva since it seems like she has to face it all alone. It only makes sense, then, that when a boy comes along that seems to really understand Eva, she falls hard and fast. I wasn't a huge fan of how quickly Eva became obsessed with Will. I mean, she literally traveled across the country to see him even though he seemed kind of flakey and not as willing to contact her as she did him. The end, though, was so realistic and I was actually really glad that things weren't all rainbows and sunshine for the characters (sorry, I'm trying to explain it vague enough so that I don't give anything away). I really loved Eva's character and how relatable she was when it came to having a crush and obsessing over that relationship.
What I also loved about this book was how much Eva experienced throughout her road trip. Road trip novels are so much fun to read and it was great how Eva got such a diverse experience everywhere she went. She first stopped in Cleveland (being from Ohio myself, I loved the Skyline references!) and then met some real life cowboys in Texas. It was funny how Eva would describe some situations how they would be described in one of her romance novels. That was a fun quirk that made the romance connection tie in really well. While a lot of this book was about Eva chasing after Will and her insecurities in their relationship, there was still a lot that dealt with friendship and family. Annie was a great friend and I really enjoyed their relationship. Then, Eva was still trying to figure out how she wanted to deal with her mom and if she even wanted to go back to New York at all. Eva had a lot of learning and growing up to do in this novel, all while trying to follow her heart.
Overall, I actually really enjoyed this novel. I thought it was kind of annoying in the beginning how obsessed with Will Eva was when they really hadn't even spent all that much time together, but as the story progressed and ended up, Eva's experience was actually pretty relatable and realistic. If you want a story that deals with the hardships of grief, tests the strength of friendship, and explores the naivety of first love, you should definitely check out Kissing in America.
“Wonderful . . . Margo Rabb has created nothing less than a women’s map of American mythologies, navigating from Emily Dickinson to Barbara Cartland, from the cowboys of the rodeos to the makeup studios of Hollywood, and from the bottom of the Atlantic to the spacious skies of the USA.” — E. Lockhart, New York Times bestselling author of We Were Liars
“A wonderful novel about friendship, love, travel, life, hope, poetry, intelligence and the inner lives of girls. Margo Rabb writes with compassion and clarity about lives that are worth telling, journeys that need to be taken, peace that needs to be reached. I loved it.” — Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray Love
“That Margo Rabb can write a story so gorgeous, funny, and joyous that is also unsentimental and honest is a testament to her skill and to her heart. I loved everything about Eva and the supporting cast in this beautiful novel.” — Sara Zarr, author of The Lucy Variations
“Rabb eloquently gets grief right in this compassionate, perceptive, and poignant story, deftly leavened with irreverent humor, of a girl in conflict with her mother. Wise, inspiring, and ultimately uplifting-not to be missed.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“With a full cast of multidimensional characters, this novel explores the complex nature of relationships and the many faces of grief and love with equal parts humor and poignancy.” — School Library Journal
“A smart teen’s novel. [The] characters are authentic and complex. Rabb knows the perfect point to interject humor to diffuse a potentially devastating situation—a leavening of sorts to the reality that death and love inexplicitly alter the landscape of a person’s life.” — Booklist (starred review)
“In this indelible coming-of-age story, Rabb seamlessly weaves together multiple narratives. Sprinkled with the poetry Eva reads and writes, this story makes for a hilarious, thought-provoking, wrenching, and joyful quest.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Humor and depth . . . Often entertainingly snarky” — The Horn Book
“It is a marvel and I love every word of it: the carefully structured plot, the memorable characters, the wholly apposite style and tone. It is funny, sad, wistful, wise, and altogether memorable.” — Michael Cart
Follow the Kissing in America AUDIO TOUR that Epic Reads is hosting. You can win lots of prizes and hear excerpts from Margo Rabb's book. Click on the banner below to start following the AUDIO TOUR!
Margo Rabb's stories have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Zoetrope: All Story, Seventeen, Best New American Voices, New Stories from the South, New England Review, One Story, and elsewhere, and have been broadcast on National Public Radio. She received grand prize in the Zoetrope short story contest, first prize in The Atlantic Monthly fiction contest, first prize in the American Fiction contest, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award. She grew up in Queens, New York, and now lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two children. A complete list of her published work can be found here
ENTER THE GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a SOUVENIR from EACH CITY!