Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kiss me First by Lottie Moggach

Leila is a lonely young woman.  She can’t remember how she found ‘Red Pill’ but she knows it didn’t take long for her to become obsessed with the website dedicated to philosophical discussion.  Spending hours formulating her contributions to the ethical discussions on the site it isn’t long until she is noticed by the site’s founder – the enigmatic and mysterious Adrian.  They arrange to meet and discuss ‘Project Tess’: a plan which would allow a depressed woman to commit suicide without her family and friends knowing.  Tess would tell her loved ones that she had moved away to a remote Canadian island and Leila would keep up her online life: her Facebook profile, emails, even leaving pre-recorded messages for Tess’ mother.  But Leila will soon discover that there is more to a person than any amount of Facebook messages, emails, or memories can cover…

Written in the first person narrative we catch glimpses of Leila’s personality and warped perception of the world through her misunderstandings of Tess’ life.  They spend hours sending emails, talking on Skype, trying to comb over every person who was ever once significant in Tess’ life.  Spread-sheets detailing the arguments Tess has had with her mother: the topics, the dates, the fallout are composed.  Leila’s bedroom walls are decorated with a timeline of Tess’ life.  The problem being, however, is that all of the information Leila gathers is from Tess’ perspective – the events and people she remembers, and Leila has no information about those phrases Tess has forgotten: what ‘kiss me first’ means as a sign off in emails.

The marketing for the book ties in perfectly with the theme: an app which accesses your Facebook page, as you see another person type in a status for you, and (in my case) a girl I last spoke to seven years ago asking if I was okay as I seemed ‘a bit odd lately’.  We are living in a time when people you would otherwise have forgotten can access a lot of personal information via our social media accounts which whilst it may allow us to feel like we’re ‘keeping in touch’, Moggach cleverly turns this notion on its head and asks: how do we know we’re ‘keeping in touch’ with the person that we used to know?

The intense relationship which develops between Leila and Tess shows how brilliantly and deftly Moggach has created two women who jump off the page.  As Leila takes on Tess’ life she grows as a person, learning things about herself which no amount of hours on an internet forum could offer.  Moggach has spoken in interviews of the novel morphing into an unintentional thriller; which, I feel, sadly shows at the end where there has been such build up, only to have the various threads of the story thrown together at the last minute. Thankfully, however, this doesn’t stop Kiss Me First from being a fascinating and insightful read into our dependence on our online relationships.  

If you’re looking for an unputdownable book for the summer – look no further! 

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