“First. Don’t judge the book by this cover. Second. Don’t judge it by its title. The story is not cheesy or corny.” – From the blog Find a Girl Who Reads
Paula over at Find a Girl Who Reads is the one who turned me on to this book with her review, linked above. The premise of Kiss Me First is very Hitchcockian: A mysterious man approaches a socially awkward, sheltered young woman named Leila with an idea. There’s a miserable woman, Tess, who wants to commit suicide, but doesn’t want to leave her friends and family sad and hurting. So Leila will become Tessa on all social media, leaving the impression that Tess is alive but has moved a remote area where she can’t be easily reached. Tess will then leave this mortal plane, securing her body in place where it may never be found. Tess says that contact with what she believes to be largely uninterested family and friends will eventually tail off, and Leila will then be freed of her responsibility. Leila, a huge believer in personal responsibility as well as assisted suicide, is intrigued and agrees to do it.
No way that can go wrong, right?
The set-up is terrific, with Leila working to satisfy the curiosity of Tess’s friends and family as well as being concerned about being discovered. Slowly, Leila starts to lose her own identity within Tess’s, leading to other complications.
The problem is this: In the end, it kind of all just falls apart. On the one hand, that results in what is a pretty realistic ending. Recriminations, anger, hurt, sadness, it’s all there and it plays out in a grounded, well thought-out way. On the other hand, the realistic ending isn’t all that exciting after a terrific, suspenseful buildup. As the plan falls apart, the fallout seems all too quick and less than interesting.
Despite my mild disappointment in the wrap-up, I’d definitely recommend the book. It’s a clever piece of writing, and while Leila is often cringe-worthy in any sort of social context, because of her sincerity and naiveté, it’s hard not to root for her and hope that she walks away from this mad situation unscathed.
So thank you, Paula, for the recommendation. This is my way of passing it along.