Saturday, August 6, 2011

Review: After the Kiss

Terra Elan McVoy
Simon Pulse
Though Camille and Becca have never met, their lives become intertwined when Camille kisses Becca's boyfriend, Alec. For Becca, the kiss signals the end of her relationship while it unmoors Camille, who has gotten good at not setting down roots as her family is constantly picking up and moving. Written in split POV with both verse (Becca) and second-person stream-of-consciousness narration (Camille), the book explores the kiss from both girls' viewpoints as they deal with what comes after.

Since the kiss seems to be the jumping-off point for both girls' stories, I was surprised that it didn't come until over 100 pages into the novel. The characters and writing style kept me reading up until that point, however McVoy's unique writing is both positive and negative: it was interesting, but second-person narration usually reads a bit weird and takes some getting used to even in the best of hands. Becca's verses read more like prose split into lines, but I'm partial enough to novels-in-verse that this was okay with me. The story really takes off when Camille and Alec kiss and from there the girls' stories twine together in an interesting way as Camille's new hangout is the coffee shop that Becca works at. The two strike up a strangely unique relationship though I was disappointed that there was never any sort of recognition or confrontation between them.

This book sets itself apart from many books with similar cheating-boyfriend themes because not only is Alec not much of a character, but more importantly Camille has no idea he has a girlfriend. The writing style at first creates a distance between the characters and the reader, but after a while this distance went away and I felt very much as if I were standing in Camille-and-Becca's shoes as they dealt with life. Though I personally related a bit more to Camille, both characters are strong and reading about Becca's job and senior-year newspaper are some of the highlights of the book. Both girls are dealing with heartbreak -- Becca over Alec, and Camille over an unnamed boy she had to leave with her family's most recent move. Camille's heartbreak, strangely, seems more deeply felt than Becca's, but that might just be my own bias. Both girls are also dealing with family issues as Camille's parents' constant moving has her unmoored and unable to connect with others while Becca's parents' divorce has left her living alone with her mother while her older brother is away at college. The issues the characters are dealing with are strange mirror images of each other and I loved the various themes -- family, love, friendship, and money. The writing styles make everything a bit hazy and there were times when I found myself wishing the story were written in a more straight-forward manner -- I missed scenes and dialogue here, but in the end I have to say that this style of writing actually helped the book. Reading the character's unique POVs brings the reader much closer to them, as if reading a journal or private blog, even if it distances from the rest of the story. It makes the emotions of the story that much stronger and in a story built on turbulent and deeply-felt emotions, this is important.

It took a while to adjust to this book, but once I did I couldn't stop reading. It's understated and complex, different and heartfelt. I definitely recommend it, especially for those readers who like more experimental writing.


  1. Wow...this book is written from second person perspective? That is so rare. I'm tempted to pick it up just to see how it is done.

  2. Michael Offutt
    The second person definitely took some adjusting but I LOVED it. I thought it was even better than the chapters written in verse.