Pros and Cons / Kissing in America

Hello!Pros and ConsJust as I did with Monday’s Making the Grade review, I’ve refreshed one of my other review formats, Pros and Cons, to better suit my lengthy writing style. First book to take on the new format is Margo Rabb’s YA release Kissing in America, a novel that – to my surprise – has flown under the radar since its release in May. Summer may have come and gone, but I think road trip stories are appropriate any time of year. In other words? Add this to your reading list, friends, after you read my review that is :) What book are you reading to start off your September?

Kissing in America

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. {Goodreads}

Dynamic character relationships Developed character relationships, whether they be those of friends or those of family, are essential to any strong story, but they are even more significant of an element in YA. It’s at this time where friends are often of the utmost importance and tension is more commonly felt between family members, and the best books {Kissing in America is one} fully explore the ties between characters. Here, Eva’s journey wouldn’t be as powerful without the loyalty she feels to her best friend, Annie, or the strained relationship she has with her mother. The only thing done better is the growth she and the supporting characters demonstrate as the book comes to a close.

Natural and realistic portrayal of grief Grief is difficult to capture in words, as the loss of a loved one affects every person differently. Rabb does it, however, and she does it so well.  Eva’s pain, frustration, and ultimate acceptance are illustrated beautifully, as are the flashbacks she has of she and her dad. Furthermore, the glimpses we readers see of others’ loss and suffering have a similar impact, despite their short appearance in the plot.

Strong and continuous theme of empowerment It can’t be sugar-coated in any way: this title is misleading. While Eva sets off on the road trip with her mind set on a boy, she finishes it with a better sense of empowerment and a number of strong female role models to look up to. The supporting characters also touch upon aspects of feminism {Eva’s mom, for example, is a professor of women’s studies}, as do some of the storylines {can I be a contestant on this smart girl’s game show?!}. The theme is consistent, developed, and last, but not least, never overwhelmingly obvious.

Vivid writing and scenery choices Rabb’s writing is gorgeous; she has a way with words that hooks itself around the reader and doesn’t let go until the very last page. Her manner of writing is a perfect match with a road trip novel, as Rabb gives great care in showcasing the various settings. Even Eva’s New York City home comes alive with the author’s attention to detail and superb word choice.

Slow middle section I find that many contemporary novels over 350 pages run into this same problem: a slow middle section. Rabb’s writing skills need no improvement – I believe I made that clear above – I just don’t think there is enough substance to support this long of a novel {The beginning and the end, on the other hand? Excellent pacing}.

Extravagant characters in an otherwise relatable novel This bullet comes as less of a complaint and more of an observation. I love unique and unusual characters, especially in road trip stories; they are what create a memorable journey for both the protagonist and the reader. Here, however, the distinct characters only boarded on the line of unrealistic that Eva’s sexual safety obsessed aunt or the lady whose house explodes Texas feel out of place.

Have you read Kissing in America? Have a terrific Wednesday!



3 thoughts on “Pros and Cons / Kissing in America

  1. Aw yea! I just finished reading Kissing in America last weekend, I really enjoyed it. Margo Rabb’s writing was beautiful and powerful and I found myself getting misty-eyed at the end of the novel. And Eva’s voice was so vivid. I loved the banter exchanged between Eva and her BFF, Annie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You touched upon some of the best parts of the novel. Margo Rabb’s writing is gorgeous; I hope she releases another YA novel soon because I’ll be first in line to grab it :) The banter between Eva and Annie is another wonderful element {I forgot to mention it for some odd reason}. Thank you for commenting!


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