Wow. This book was not at all what I expected it to be. Going into to Kissing in America, I fully expected to be bombarded with feminist messages on every page. Don’t get me wrong – feminism is all well and good, and I’m a huge fan of strong female-driven narratives, but so many reviews honed in on the feminist theme of this story that I worried that it might read more like political propaganda than a YA novel.
Instead, I found this to be a thoroughly witty, charming, and quite disarming story, narrated by a true-to-life narrator dealing with immense emotional trauma and searching for a way to make things better, no matter the lengths she has to go to in order to do so. Eva is spunky, sassy, and full of longing – she wants to fall in love more than anything else in the entire world (sounds like me at 16, that’s for sure). Her dad died tragically a few years ago, and ever since she’s been addicted to romance novels to cope with her loss. Meanwhile, her mother is a hardcore feminist who not only looks down on her choice of literature, but doesn’t think Eva should be thinking about boys AT ALL.
Honestly, despite this being billed as YA Romance (and it is, in a way) I found that this book centers more around the relationships between women (maybe that’s why it’s been touted as such a feminist book?). The relationship between sisters, between friends, and, most importantly, between mother and daughter. It was those relationships I was most concerned about, and I felt that the development of the relationships was what most moved the story along and kept me engrossed until the final page. Specifically Eva and her mother, who have such a hard time connecting in the beginning (which reminded me a lot of my own teenage years with my mom), shine as the book progresses and they each learn to see the other in a new light, which just might save their relationship altogether.
This was a very beautiful and heartfelt book, and one I’m sure I’ll be re-reading again soon. It made me want to call my mom. And it reminded me of how mysterious and amazing the love between mother and child can be.
Rating: 5/5 stars