16 April 2012

(ARC) YA Book Review: Kiss the Morning Star by Elissa Janine Hoole

Release Date: 15 May 2012
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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Goodreads description:
The summer after high-school graduation, a year after her mother’s tragic death, Anna has no plans – beyond her need to put a lot of miles between herself and the past. With forever friend Kat, a battered copy of Kerouac’s DHARMA BUMS, and a car with a dodgy oil filter, the girls set out on an epic road trip across the USA. Maybe somewhere along the way they’ll prove or disprove the existence of God. Maybe they’ll even get laid . . .

It’s a journey both outward and inward. Through the Badlands and encounters with predatory men and buffalo. A crazy bus ride to Mexico with a bunch of hymn-singing missionaries. Facing death, naked in the forest with an enraged grizzly bear . . . Gradually, Anna realizes that this is a voyage of discovery into her own self, her own silent pain – and into the tangled history that she and Kat share. What is love? What is sexual identity? And how do you find a way forward into a new future – a way to declare openly and without fear all that lies within you?
My Thoughts...

When Anna and Kate set out on their post-high school road trip, the destination is unknown but that makes it all the more exciting.  They'll camp and backpack and find their way across the country with little guidance besides a map and Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums to guide their way.  As their journey continues, it hits numerous road bumps (and some road blocks) that give them shaky moments, but along the way they also discover that their journey is as much about discovering themselves as it is about finding God, happiness, friendship, and love.

Art should be important.  Art should...change things.
-p7, eARC
This book, with it's fantastic road trip storyline, was destined from the start to be either a love or hate book for me and it most definitely fell solidly into the love category.  The road trip itself is so well done that it gave me the urge to pick up a copy of Kerouac's Dharma Bums and set off across the country.  Things aren't perfect along the way, but the girls always seem to make it work.  I loved that the openness of the road trip setting also paved the way for the novel to explore lots of other topics, from organized religion to drugs and sexual identity to grief.  I'll admit that there's a lot going on in this novel, but it worked for ME.  I liked the grappling with issues because it gave it a realistic feel.  It had that overwhelming feeling that I remember quite clearly (and still experience sometimes to this day) where everything is happening all at once and you're not quite sure what to do with everything.
You know when you step in the mud with boots on, and there's that satisfying sound? A squish, my mom used to call it--the way it tugs at your boot when you try to lift your foot, but not in a scary way lik eyoumight lose your book forever--that nice little tug that reminds you you're solid. That's how I imagine it would feel to sit in the middle of the woods and close my eyes and do nothing but breathe and listen and let myself squish right into the world. Solid but now scary. Along but not lonely. Missing but not lost.
-p31, eARC
I always have to comment on the characters because that's a big factor in whether or not I enjoy a book and I have to say that I wasn't at all disappointed in Kate and Anna.  Anna is dealing with a lot of lingering grief over the death of her mother and attempting, in baby steps, to recover her relationship with her father and Kate. I also liked their relationship. It's shaky and uncertain and the attempt to make the move to more than "just friends" could be the end of them, but they're exploring and trying anyway.
Ugliness is just a preface to true beauty.
-p162, eARC
Overall, Kiss the Morning Star is a book that I think deserves a spot on many bookshelves and in many libraries.  I anticipate that some readers will find the story overwhelmed by the issues it tackles, but readers such as myself will immerse themselves in the uncertainties and experiences.

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