Kissing in America

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Kissing in America Book Poster Image
Sweet, funny coming-of-age story about all kinds of love.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Many excerpts will expose readers to classics as well as modern-day poets. Extensive bibliography provides sources for all poems.

Positive Messages

You have to take leaps into the unknown; take your disasters and turn them into something beautiful, either by expressing them artistically or by living a better life because of them. Learn to be alone and do things such as travel for yourself so you can learn who you are. Every day is a struggle, but life is millions of moments of trying and looking forward. Love isn't about looks or intelligence; find someone who knows how to love you the way you need to be loved.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Eva and best friend Annie are academically driven and hardworking. Eva makes mistakes but puts them right. She learns to see people and events through other's eyes and gains insight and understanding from new points of view.

Violence

Threatening a thief with a knife gets Eva thrown off a cross-country bus. A past death in a plane crash is a major theme.

Sex

Several kisses described with emotional, but little physical, detail. Making out for hours mentioned. Gonorrhea, herpes mentioned several times. Menstruation mentioned once.

Language

Infrequent "crap," "boobs," "ass," "goddamn," "s--t," "d--khead." Satirical, romance-novel euphemisms for penis such as "manroot."

Consumerism

Lots of candy and snack foods to establish location and character. A few clothing brands establish character. A few technology products such as iPhone, PowerPoint in generic context.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A minor teen character smokes, gives two cigarettes to bribe a security guard.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kissing in America is a compelling coming-of-age story that has very little kissing. A few kisses are described, but the story concentrates on 16-year-old Eva's emotions as she falls in love while still mourning her father, who died two years earlier. Other rare, brief sexual content includes romance-novel euphemisms for body parts and a couple of mentions of STDs. Strong language also is rare (includes "d--khead" and "s--t"). Strong themes about mother-daughter relationships, falling in love, and coping with the loss of a parent make it best for teens and up.

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What's the story?

Sixteen-year-old Eva falls for Will, captain of the high school swim team, as the two get to know each other and bond over dealing with loss in their families. But as soon as things get real with Will, he has to move all the way across the country to California. Eva enters her best friend Annie in a TV quiz show, and the two set out by bus from New York City to the show's taping in Burbank. Eva is determined to see Will again and find out once and for all whether what they started in New York has staying power.

Is it any good?

This is a sweet, funny coming-of-age story. Author Margo Rabb takes on a lot -- grief, love, friendship, family, and more -- and handles it all with grace and wit thanks to the rock-solid voice of her engaging narrator Eva. Teens will learn a lot about what life has to offer, how to keep going through hard times, and about the many kinds of love they'll encounter in their lives.

Eva's voice propels the story at a good pace, seamlessly intertwining the many directions a teen's life can get pulled, and keeps the pages turning as readers root for her. Universal themes; a colorful, varied cast of characters; and inclusion of a wide range of moving poetry make KISSING IN AMERICA a great choice for a mother-daughter read-along.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Eva's obsession with romance novels. Why does she love them so much? Do they affect her relationship with Will? How?

  • Eva says that no one writes epic books about mother and daughter love. Do you agree? Why do you think that might be?

  • Eva and her mother grieve for Eva's father in very different ways. Is there a right way to grieve? How can families coping with loss support each other through tough times?

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For kids who love romance and coming-of-age stories

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