Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Kiss the Morning Star by Elissa Janine Hoole


Title: Kiss the Morning Star
Author: Elissa Janine Hoole
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
Release date: April 1st 2012
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley - thank you to Marshall Cavendish and NetGalley for providing a free eGalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads


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?
First sentence:
It's strange how a plan can unfold sometimes - an umbrella shooting up at the touch of a button and extending out in all directions quickly, effortlessly.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

 I wanted to love this book, I really did. The premise sounded awesome - I love road trips (especially if they're set in the summer after high school), I love grief (well, obviously I don't love grief; but I love reading about grief), and I love romance. So I thought I would automatically love Kiss the Morning Star. But it just didn't work.

Kiss the Morning Star, at least the first half, focuses a lot on religion. I guess the description kind of says so - "Maybe somewhere along the way they'll prove or disprove the existence of God." - but I didn't realize that beforehand. To me, that sentence seems so random, like it's just supposed to show that Anna and Kat have no real plans; that anything can happen. So I just kind of overlooked that aspect, and was surprised at how much talk of religion and God there is in this book. Anna's dad is a pastor, so the whole family is Christian, but ever since her mom died, Anna isn't sure whether she can still believe in God. She goes on this road trip to try to find God again.

I can't explain why - the way religion is handled in this book just didn't sit right with me. The message, religion-wise, is kind of confusing. I figured since her dad is a pastor, Christianity would be seen at least sort of positively, but that's not the case - Anna's view of Christianity, throughout the book, is very negative. I understand it must be hard to believe after losing someone close to you, but I don't know, I thought it was strange how negative her view on believing in general is, considering she went on a road trip just to find God. The book shows some pretty radical beliefs - there's a scene where they're on a bus and the bus breaks down right on the train tracks and a train is coming, and instead of getting out of the bus as fast as possible, the people pray to God to make the bus start again - and Anna is very outspoken on what she thinks of that. I didn't mind that part, since, well, I agree with her there, but it bugged me that there's nothing about how not all belief is like that, how it's not all bad - which surprised me, given Anna's family background. And then, in the second half of the book, belief doesn't even come up again - the whole topic just kind of disappears. I just thought that was very, very weird.

So something about the way religion is portrayed in Kiss the Morning Star didn't sit right with me. Sorry for sort of going off on a tangent there, I promise I'll talk about the other stuff in the book, too! Anyways, I think the book just wanted to include too many topics - there's religion, there's the road trip itself, there's Anna's grief, there's the Dharma Bums stuff, there's Anna's relationship with her dad, and then there's the whole Kat-and-Anna's-friendship-turning-into-more storyline. I think I would have preferred if the author had left one or two of those topics out - the way it is, it all felt kind of jumbled together, and none of the issues are dealt with in a way that satisfied me as a reader,

The Dharma Bums aspect didn't work for me. The girls use the book Dharma Bums as their itinerary - they open a page at random and let one paragraph decide for them where to go or what to do next. I actually like that idea, but I would have liked to know more about the actual book, what happens and what it's about. And I would have liked to know why they chose that book - I know Kat's dad gave it to them, but it still seems like a very random choice for two girls who just graduated high school.

The grief storyline is okay. I liked reading about Anna's grief and her memories of her mother, but I wanted it to go deeper. I also like the dynamics between Anna and her father, how they're described in the beginning - Anna's father is dealing with his own grief, doesn't preach anymore, and barely gets out of bed. I really liked that set-up. But there's one scene where Anna pocket-dials her dad and he overhears a conversation he shouldn't have heard, and there's a  bit of a fall-out. And then after that... it's never addressed again. I wanted there to be more, wanted more development in that relationship, but the storyline just kind of stopped.

Kat and Anna's relationship didn't ring true to me. I know there's supposed to be all this sexual tension, but I just didn't feel it. They seemed more like best friends than anything else, if I'm being honest - I just didn't buy these two as a couple. I never got Kat as a character, either.

The actual road trip is the only storyline I really liked. I liked reading about all the places they go and all the unusual things they do, the people they meet.

Wow, my review has gotten longer than I intended. I give you props if you've stuck with me this long! I loved the premise of Kiss the Morning Star, and each storyline held a lot of promise. but I thought there were too many of them for any one to be fully developed. I wanted there to be more of everything; for all of the storylines, characters, and relationships to be more fleshed-out and deeper. I'm pretty disappointed, because like I said, this book held a lot of promise. The way it is, though, it just didn't work for me.

If you've read this book, what did you think?

2 comments:

  1. Great honest review!  I don't think this is for me, either.  

    ReplyDelete
  2. Since you love romance, you might like this Janet Evanovich quote Evanovich quote

    ReplyDelete

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