book review of Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

Kissing in America by Margo Rabb • Magan Reviews

book review of Kissing in America by Margo RabbKISSING IN AMERICA by Margo Rabb [web | tweet]
Published by Harper Teen on May 26, 2015
Pages: 400
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: first love, parental loss, airplane crash, detached mothers

Summary: Not many things have gone right for Eva, but when she meets Will and they connect over personal losses they’ve both suffered through, she feels like she’s finally piecing herself back together again. Until Will has to move across the country and she’s not sure how or when she’ll ever see him again.

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Kissing in America was my in-flight book of choice a few weeks ago. Usually I do a little bit of reading about the book before I jump right in, but I’d momentarily forgotten to download my review books to my kindle so I quickly did that moments before I was told to temporarily turn off my devices. I hadn’t even read the summary when I began, and I’m pretty sure that made reading this book even more special – I had no expectations.

Eva is a pretty typical teenager — she struggles with fitting in, is angered by how detached her mom can be one moment and how suffocating she feels the next, and has one solid best friend, Annie. But there’s something that sets Eva apart, too. Her father died two years ago in an airplane crash. The piqued curiosity she received when telling people about his death infuriated her so much she began to tell people he died peacefully in his sleep from a heart attack. (Meanwhile her mother never, ever mentions him and discarded any trace of him weeks after he died.)

When she begins tutoring Will by proofing his college essays and English papers, they connect over their personal tragedies. His younger brother died as an infant and his mother has never recovered from the loss. As Eva’s adoration for Will grows, she can’t lie to him anymore about her dad’s death. She spills the truth to him and this bonds them even more; she loves that she can be honest about all of these pieces of her no one except Annie knows: how she secretly reads messages in a forum for the surviving family members of the airplane crash or how she hoarded some of her dad’s belongings before her mother could toss them out. Their love for reading and poetry, their losses, and their easy banter bind Will and Eva together over the course of the school year.

Just when things have hit their stride, Will’s forced to move to California. How will these two ever reunite (especially considering she could never fly there)? Kissing in America is a strong tale about first love, healing, heartbreak, parental struggles, not always seeing eye-to-eye, and best friendship stress when you suck at life and let someone down. Eva and Annie find a way to road trip to CA by entering in a game show competition to find the Smartest Girl in America. Annie is a brilliant girl destined for MIT, but she’s overwhelmed by the cost of it and knows her parents couldn’t afford it. This could be her ticket to her dreams.

With much hesitation and a few embarrassing rules in place, Annie and Eva are allowed to road trip from New York to Los Angeles. This was by far my favorite aspect of the book. They meet a crazy bus thief, a few Texas cowboys (who were severely over-exaggerated, but still so fun), and get some solid advice from Eva’s mom’s best friend Lulu. There were moments of such extreme realness in Kissing in America that made me feel like an eavesdropper/stalker along for the bus trip.

The remainder of Kissing in America needs to be experienced by you and I should stop babbling on. (But believe me I could chat forever about this one.) It made me giggle, brought tears to my eyes, made me think about the type of mother I hope to be, and even frightened me a little bit as the details of her father’s plane crash were revealed. It’s one of those books that gives you a whole lot of story in the best and simplest of ways, with characters you love, and a great sadness when it’s all over.

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An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Travel Tales: Oh the Places Kelly Would Go

travel tails feature with rather be reading, alexa loves books, and novel sounds

Welcome, welcome! (We just re-watched The Hunger Games so I’m channeling my inner Effie Trinket.) I’m so very excited to introduce you guys to Kelly at Radiant Shadows today! She’s an awesome blogger with thought-provoking posts, amazing reviews, and a gorgeous layout (I swoon over it every time I visit!). She’s sharing a few places she’d love to travel, book inspired of course!

Can you share two or three books that you absolutely loved and wish you could escape to? The places can be real or fictional!

book cover for die for me by amy plum, radiant shadows discusses die for me by amy plumAs soon as I read this question, Paris popped into my head and it’s because I absolutely loved Die for Me by Amy Plum. Her ability to transport you into the city she’s describing is unlike any other author I have ever read. I mean, I have a pretty good imagination so I can usually piece together what the author is aiming for. But with Die For Me, it was effortless; Plum has obviously spent a LOT of time in Paris. This is taken directly from my review of Die For Me, because I really can’t explain it any better!

“I was so easily transported into a city I have never visited that I could swear she was reading my memories instead of painting me a picture. Her descriptions of the streets, the cafes, the museums – even Kate’s reaction to a painting that moved her! – all allowed for me to feel as if I was reaching in to the recesses of my mind for a memory of me frequenting those same streets, cafes and museums…It was wonderful and charming and created such an enjoyable reading experience that the entire story could have been garbage and I still would have walked away with a smile on my face.” 


I would also love to visit the Summer Court from Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series (which just happens to be where I got the name for my blog from!). Everyone in that court just feels so…free! Free to laugh and dance and just enjoy being. I would love to lose myself dancing in gentle summer showers with Keenan warming my skin with his perpetual glow.

And of course, Hogwarts. But that’s a given!



If you could wake up in any city in the world tomorrow and have a delicious cup of coffee (or your favorite drink!) where would that be and why?

I haven’t done much travelling outside of Canada, so there really isn’t a city I wouldn’t like to wake up in! If I had to pick just one though, it would probably be Athens. I’ve always had a thing for Greek mythology and I would die a happy lady if I could spend even a little time exploring such an historically important city!

Where is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled and why?

guest post with kelly of radiant shadows

Kelly and Her Fiance, Aaron

I have family in Wales and Liverpool, and I spent a few weeks one summer visiting them. I absolutely loved exploring around Liverpool/London – the culture is so similar, yet so different at the same time! I also loved how varied the fashion was and spent a lot of time trying to convince my mom I needed to cut/color my hair to match the people of London. (Now I guess I should thank her, but at the time I thought a purple half-mohawk thing was the epitome of cool).

Imagine you were taking the next month to take the most epic road trip ever. Which cities would you HAVE to stop at along the way?

Living in Canada, you would think I had a lot of experience with my neighbour, the US. Surprisingly, I’ve only ever been as far as Maine, as its only a few hours drive from my parents’ home (and the shopping is cheap!). So I’ve always dreamed of doing a cross-country roadtrip in the US, hitting up Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, New York, Washington, Miami – and so many more! There’s so many places I haven’t been that I’d like to get to, that I think starting close to home and working my way out will help me get to as many as possible!

If you were a character in Harry Potter, which house would you belong to? 

According to Pottermore, I belong in Gryffindor. But I always thought I had an affinity for Ravenclaw too.

You studied philosophy in college (I’m so impressed — philosophy confused the heck out of me). If there were one philosopher you could go back and have a healthy debate with, who would you choose and what would you argue?

I would love to pick Descartes’ mind further. It was the study of his Meditations in my first year that really convinced me to continue with my BA in Philosophy. I loved how he really simplified everything, removing every physical attribute to get to the bottom of his existence. I don’t agree with his conclusions (essentially that the only rational explanation for his intellectual existence is the existence of a benevolent God, as something cannot come from nothing), so I’m sure we’d have a lot to talk about. (Especially considering advances in science which show something – even if its only a tiny particle – can come from nothing).

Rapid fire round — answer with the first thoughts that come to mind:

I wish more books were set in: big cities! Why is everyone from small towns with nothing to do, where everyone knows everyone’s business?

In New York I would: go see a Broadway show.

My favorite thing to do in my hometown is: hang out with friends. My hometown is nicknamed “Cowtown” because our population of cows outweighs people; we don’t even have a movie theatre, so there was a lot of just hanging out.

guest interview with kelly of radiant shadows

Kelly Next to a Big Cow in PEI

When I’m not reading, I’m: at the movies. I love the arcade!

guest post with kelly at radiant shadows

Kelly’s Big Win at the Arcade

My favorite book of all time is: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Years later, it’s still stuck with me!

Kelly, thank you so, so much for participating in our Travel Tales guest post! I loved getting to know you better! 

Connect with Kelly at Radiant Shadows: