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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
'It was a Friday night, about nine weeks into the project.'

Lottie Moggach's debut novel starts with the 'final conversation' her narrator Leila has with Tess. The novel then timeshifts forward to August 2011 where Leila is in Spanish commune searching for Tess. In the earlier narrative thread we learn Leila lost her mother to MS and through an internet forum takes on the absurdist task of continuing the online life of someone who wants to commit suicide. That person is Tess. We know from the 2011 narrative that police are involved and that Leila is searching for Tess who she thought had committed suicide. The success of the novel then depends on Moggach being able to keep juggling those emerging and seemingly conflicting stories and in keeping us interested in the outcome.

The novel was clearly seen as hitting the zeitgeist by the publishing community and was the focus of a bidding war. The prize of finding the next pyschological thriller to catch the public imagination must be large, but to my mind this isn't it. The sense of danger of a thriller needs isn't really there and the psychological aspects are not fully convincing. Much of the pull of the novel is expected to come from the reader being able to interpret differently what our unreliable narrator is telling in the manner of Notes on a Scandal but I found this patchy. We presume Leila is on the autistic spectrum from her awkward lists of questions for Tess and from her inability to read social situations, yet she is able to adopt Tess's flirty online tone with ease and her flatmate Jonty, himself a cipher helps her social integration later. I was intrigued by the puzzle and found it compelling at times but felt tighter editing might have helped keep my interest through some very slow patches. I was unconvinced by the end.

The novel is keen to explore themes of identity. The persona that can be displayed to the work through social networking or the virtual life that can be lived on the internet, playing World of Witchcraft or in philosophy forums and in Facebook likes is examined with wit and precision. Moggach is very good at these small moments of sharp observation.
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on 28 October 2014
The basic premise of this book - one woman is paid to impersonate another on the internet to hide the fact that the latter has killed herself - sounded unique and intriguing, if a little far-fetched. Sadly, despite a few potentially promising moments early on, the books was mostly quite dull, quite depressing and didn't really go anywhere. There was some clever commentary on internet use and some believable online conversations, but they couldn't save this book for me.

Both the (seemingly autistic, certainly very socially awkward and isolated) imposter and the (bi-polar and suicidal) real women were difficult to identify with, and while I felt some sympathy towards both of them, I couldn't bring myself to like them. I also feel as though autism as plot device is becoming far too much of a cliché and an easy plot device. Most of the supporting cast also combined being unlikeable with having depressing lives. I'm generally a fairly cheerful person, but each time I picked this up, by the time I put it down again, I felt quite down myself. I'd definitely avoid this if you're at all depressed.

I could have forgiven the characters and the air of gloom if the plot had had some drama and twists and turns. Surely there had to be more to this bizarre plan than met the eye, some sort of conspiracy or murder mystery or clever twist. But no, with a few bumps along the way, the premise is the entire plot, and it eventually trails off with no real denouement. It's presented as a thriller, but there are few thrills to be had.
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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.

A perfectly plotted story that deals with a very topical subject. I will be very interested to see what Lottie Moggach comes up with in her next book.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book has a very interesting premise and some good, engrossing episodes but as a whole I found it rather unsatisfactory.

The plot revolves around the narrator (Leila) being asked to take on the identity of another person (Tess) and to pretend to be her and to keep up her internet "life" while the real Tess disappears. I won't give away more plot details than that because things develop slowly and further revelation would have acted as a spoiler for much of the book for me. The characters of Leila and Tess are interesting and Leila has a very well realised and convincing narrative voice. She is a solitary, asocial, slightly autistic young woman while Tess is an older, devil-may-care "free spirit". I found both characters convincing; Leila's social ineptiude and naiveté were well done as was Tess's unpredictability, and the depiction of the relationship between them was a strength of the book.

There is lots of interaction between the two of them as Leila tries to get to grips with the minutiae which she will need of Tess's life, and then the story of how things go once Leila has taken over. This was one of my problems with the book; it's an interesting idea but - oh dear! - there's a lot of it. I ended up skimming pages and pages of stuff regarding questions about who Victor was, where Tess worked at certain times and so on and so on, none of which had any real relevance to the plot or central idea. I know that Lottie Moggach is trying to convey the immense intricacy and detail needed, but it's not really a spectator sport. Things picked up a bit after page 150, but there were still considerable longeurs and I thought the book could have done with being at least 100 pages shorter. Moggach has the courage not to tie everything up too neatly at the end, but I still found it all just a little more convenient than convincing.

There is a really good book to be written about identity in the internet age but, although it's a creditable attempt in many ways, this isn't it. I was hoping for some elements of the Curious Case Of The Dog In The Night-Time and The Talented Mr Ripley, but got neither, really. I don't like to be too critical of a debut novel, but I can only give this a very qualified recommendation.
33 comments|21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This wasn't what I was expecting. I knew nothing about this book when I picked it up, and from the title I was expecting a dramatic and romantic storyline. That is not this book. Kiss Me First is one of the only books I've read that scarily, yet somehow eerily accurately, depicts the dangers of the Internet... especially when in the wrong hands.

There are seriously sinister undertones throughout this novel, and yet the main character, Leila, is still relate-able at times, and humanised by the author. A very clever move. Leila is an unreliable first-person narrator, and although she's painted as an un-likeable character, there are definite sympathetic and vulnerable elements to her character, that somehow made me connect with her in a way that I was almost uncomfortable with. Tess on the other hand is the popular girl-about-town, who is dealing with mental health issues that make her an erratic fireball of a character. Oddly, I struggled with her a little more than I did Leila.

Overall, the plot was very well executed, if a little slow at times, but I was entertained right until the end as the mystery unravelled.

Check out my full review here:
[...]
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on 15 February 2014
A very interesting idea ... The story tells how socially isolated Leila comes to know the vulnerable Tess and agrees to take over her life online so that Tess can disappear. It's difficult to say too much without spoiling the story line. In an age when the internet is an important part of so many lives, it poses interesting and sometimes disturbing questions about reality when people can be whoever they want to be, hiding important truths to appear to be someone completely different. There are several twists and turns throughout the story, and it kept me gripped as I was drawn into Leila's world.

I enjoyed this book. It was probably a bit longer than it needed to be, but it's a well written, thought provoking and relevant read.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Every so often a book comes along that hooks you from the very first page. This one was an extremely accomplished first novel that I read in one enjoyable sitting, mesmerised by the turns and twists in the story and absolute fascination with the character of Leila. "Unputdownable" is an overused expression - but this book really is!

Leila is the narrator, telling the story after it happened. She is a solitary individual, having worked from home in IT testing while looking after her dying mother. Left alone, she begins to live her life on line, first through Warcraft and then by discovering the Red Pill website where she engages in philosophical debate and becomes a trusted member. When approached by the site's founder - the charismatic Adrian - she agrees to assume the on-line presence of Tess, a manic depressive who wants to commit suicide without hurting her family or friends. We watch with fascination as she learns every detail about Tess' life leading up to the day Tess disappears and the game really starts.

This is a fascinating and absorbing story that made me feel really uncomfortable on a number of occasions - there's a real feeling of "this could really happen" about the whole story, with the way in which we all live our lives on line these days. And it's perfectly written - Leila has an unworldly naivety and innocence which makes her endearing, with her awkward attempts at social interaction and the precision with which she takes on her task.

I must mention the wonderful Facebook trailer produced to accompany the book - you need to be logged on to Facebook to access it, and it uses your personal details to produce a very unsettling experience. Nothing will be posted on your Facebook profile, and your details won't be shared.

I'm dying to see what Lottie Moggach comes up with next!
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VINE VOICEon 25 July 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Lottie Moggach's debut novel, 'Kiss Me First', is genuinely gripping - once I had started it, I raced through it in the course of an evening. However, although I would certainly recommend it as an interesting and thought-provoking thriller, I don't think it quite lives up to all the hype that has surrounded its publication.

Our first-person narrator, Leila, is isolated in her flat after the death of her mother, struggling with everyday social interactions that seem to her meaningless and irrational; as she comments on the Facebook interactions of the girls she used to know at school, 'It wasn't that I wanted to be like that myself. But I just didn't understand how everyone seemed to have mastered it, to know what language to use'. She's relieved when she discovers a message board dedicated to 'rational' conversation about philosophy and ethical issues, although not educated enough to realise that the level of debate is low, and the board united by a cult-like devotion to its founder, Adrian. With little effort, Adrian draws Leila into a preposterous scheme - she is to take over a 39-year-old woman, Tess's, online identity, so Tess can be free to commit suicide without devastating her friends and family. Ironically, Leila's lack of social skills become a positive asset as she runs 'sessions' with Tess and memorises the minutiae of her life, as she's had to learn by rote like this throughout her life. But will Tess go through with the plan and what will be the consequences for Leila?

The most illuminating aspect of this thriller is its examination of identity. While some may find it implausible that Leila could so easily imitate Tess through social media, I found that the use of this device allowed Moggach to explore the unwritten social codes that we can all use consistently, and how our online - and offline - personalities are consciously constructed. Indeed, the growth of online communication has allowed Moggach to write a more plausible version of Patricia Highsmith's wonderful 'The Talented Mr Ripley', which involves a certain suspension of disbelief. However, I didn't feel that the novel quite measured up to the best thrillers about selfhood and self-construction, including more recent offerings such as Gillian Flynn's 'Gone Girl' and Harriet Lane's 'Alys, Always'. Ultimately, I felt that I would get little out of re-reading this, as all its cleverness is on the surface, and although the characterisation of Leila is sympathetic and convincing, there seems little more to learn about her, either.

Highly recommended as an escapist page-turner - but I'm not sure you can expect anything more. (I would recommend checking out the unsettling Facebook trailer, however!)
0Comment|5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This book has a very interesting premise and some good, engrossing episodes but as a whole I found it rather unsatisfactory.

The plot revolves around the narrator (Leila) being asked to take on the identity of another person (Tess) and to pretend to be her and to keep up her internet "life" while the real Tess disappears. I won't give away more plot details than that because things develop slowly and further revelation would have acted as a spoiler for much of the book for me. The characters of Leila and Tess are interesting and Leila has a very well realised and convincing narrative voice. She is a solitary, asocial, slightly autistic young woman while Tess is an older, devil-may-care "free spirit". I found both characters convincing; Leila's social ineptiude and naiveté were well done as was Tess's unpredictability, and the depiction of the relationship between them was a strength of the book.

There is lots of interaction between the two of them as Leila tries to get to grips with the minutiae which she will need of Tess's life, and then the story of how things go once Leila has taken over. This was one of my problems with the book; it's an interesting idea but - oh dear! - there's a lot of it. I ended up skimming pages and pages of stuff regarding questions about who Victor was, where Tess worked at certain times and so on and so on, none of which had any real relevance to the plot or central idea. I know that Lottie Moggach is trying to convey the immense intricacy and detail needed, but it's not really a spectator sport. Things picked up a bit after page 150, but there were still considerable longeurs and I thought the book could have done with being at least 100 pages shorter. Moggach has the courage not to tie everything up too neatly at the end, but I still found it all just a little more convenient than convincing.

There is a really good book to be written about identity in the internet age but, although it's a creditable attempt in many ways, this isn't it. I was hoping for some elements of the Curious Case Of The Dog In The Night-Time and The Talented Mr Ripley, but got neither, really. I don't like to be too critical of a debut novel, but I can only give this a very qualified recommendation.
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on 14 April 2014
I had seen this been out and about for a long time and kept hearing things about it. When I received it from the publisher I was doing back flips! I couldn't wait to begin it!

Although the genre of the book is in the contemporary adult area, I would have said it crosses over in the YA genre, due to the subject nature of the internet and how a young person can connect to Leila. Many young people spend a lot of time on the internet and this book also carries a message about who you are talking to online.

This book covers a lot of different themes, all of which seem to be quite challenging to write about and read about, suicide, eating disorders, confidence issues, identity theft and obsession to name a few. With all those themes in a book you think it would not be a great read but they are covered well and I was thoroughly surprised at how well Lottie Moggach covers them. For a debut novel I thought it was very brave as she was taking a huge risk writing about all these sensitive themes but it is clear she has researched well and has not turned the book into something depressing or unattractive to read.

Leila spends most of her time on the internet, she doesn't have 'real' friends and is a bit of a hermit. She stumbles across a forum called Red Pill, this discusses philosophical ideas and after her mother died from MS she has developed strong views that people should be allowed to choose to die. Not long after joining the creator of the site contacts her with a project he thinks she may be interested in. Leila meets with the creator - Adrian to discuss this project, Tess wants to end her life but doesn't want her friends and family to suffer because of it. She is looking to pay someone to 'pose' as her online for the next 6 months to slip away unnoticed.

Through the book Leila begins communicating with Tess day after day learning more about her life and how to 'be' Tess. Before long time is up and it is time for Tess to leave, Leila has created a whole new life for her and for her friends and family to believe, posing as her on facebook and replying to emails. One day Leila/Tess receive an email from someone she has no information on Connor. Over the next few weeks Leila develops a relationship with him online as Tess.

I felt sorry for Leila, a young woman without friends, without the confidence to find any and recently lost her mother. She spends day in, day out in her room and doesn't leave the house for days, she doesn't even see her house mate. However as the story goes on Leila begins to develop an obsession for Connor an unhealthy obsession and gets so involved in being Tess. She also can be naive in the way she is thinking, if she thinks something it has to be the right thing and doesn't consider others opinions and see the way things are.

I feel the identify theft online is a relevant one, in today's age everyone is online, we take it for face value we are talking to who they say they are, but how do we really know? This leaves a chilling feeling with you as it makes you question if who you are talking to is who you think they are. It also makes you think about all your 'facebook friends' and how well you know them. What if someone was posing as them? You wouldn't know, you trust them to be who you know...

I whizzed through this book, it kept me entertained and wanting to find out what was going to be happening next. I loved the ending, however I felt it could have been a page shorter - I know, only a page but if you read it you may agree. I felt like I didn't need the last page of information. I loved the way it ended other than that, there were some questions unanswered but I enjoyed that aspect of the book.

Overall I feel that this book was an interesting read, like nothing I had read before but written well and kept me engaged. It covered many 'tricky' topics that were written well. I would recommend this book to anyone who goes online as it questions your thoughts. This book has stayed with me long after I finished it. I am looking forward to seeing what Lottie Moggach writes next.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending me this book to read.
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