"Tess has never met Leila. But if she wants to slip away from the world unnoticed, she needs to trust Leila with her life. Leila has agreed to assume Tess's identity, so that no-one will know she has gone. But first, she needs to ask some questions:
In an email dated 27/12/08, William wrote, 'Thank you for ruining lunch'. What did you do to ruin lunch? And why is he thanking you?
At various points you claim that 'You're Nobody till Someone Loves You' by Dinah Washington, 'Natural Woman' by Aretha Franklin and 'I Want You Back' by the Jackson Five are all your 'favourite song ever'. Which one is it?As Leila is soon to discover, there is much more to a life than the facts, and more than one side to every story ..... "
Although a fairly short novel at just under 300 pages (in the proof copy), it took me longer than usual to read. There is an intensity about the story, the characters and the writing that at times felt almost suffocating. The reader is thrust into the isolated, fairly strange world of Leila. Leila is our narrator and although she does realise that there is more than one side to every story, we readers only hear her side to this particular tale.
Growing up the only child of a single mother, Leila has led a sheltered existence. The slow decline in her mother's health and her eventual death have left her with a sense of worthlessness and she immerses herself in an alternative world via the internet, playing games and interacting with people in various chat rooms. One web site in particular; Red Pill and it's charismatic founder Adrian attracts her more than most and it is through Adrian that she hears about Tess. Tess wants to commit suicide, but doesn't want to cause hurt to her family and friends. Tess plans to tell everyone that she is moving away, to 'start over' when really she plans to kill herself. Leila will take on Tess's identity online.
Leila is relating her side of the story a year later when she has travelled abroad to the place that Tess 'moved away to'. Slowly and surely she relates just how she became Tess, her feelings for the other woman, her lifestyle and her friends.
This is an incredibly unique, unusual and sometimes terrifying story. Terrifying in the way that it really makes the reader consider just what they do and say online. These days, most of us use at least one form of social media. Every day I see friends and family who post the most intimate details of their daily lives. Give me a bit of time and I'm sure that I could 'become' one of my Facebook friends. In fact, how do I know that that online presence is in fact that person who I last saw 15 years ago?
Lottie Moggach has dealt with some harrowing and serious issues within this novel, yet there is also an innocence about Leila that makes her both hostile and endearing at the same time.
My thanks go to Pan Macmillan who provided a copy of Kiss Me First for review.
Pan Macmillan have produced a fabulously scary trailer to go with Kiss Me First (just click on the highlighted text to view). Turn up your speakers and prepared to be amazed! You will need to log onto Facebook to access the interactive trailer. Connecting with your Facebook account will not result in anything being posted on your Facebook profile, or anywhere else. Your details will never be shared. Pan Macmillan have promised that connecting to watch the trailer with Facebook is completely safe ........ go on, I dare you!!