Kiss Me First: a terrifyingly plausible reality

20 December 2013

Editor Francesca Main on the tingly feeling of anticipation that began on page one of reading Kiss Me First and bloomed into total, heart-pounding obsession.

It’s just over eighteen months since I first read Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach, and though I’ve read it a number of times since I will never forget the tingly feeling of anticipation that began on page one and bloomed into the total, heart-pounding obsession that comes with reading a novel you can’t bear to put down.

More than anything – even the electrifying opening, where two strangers who have come to know everything about one another have their final conversation – it was the voice of Leila, the narrator, that got me. It’s an astonishing act of literary ventriloquism and a testament to Lottie’s skill as a novelist that she makes such a nerdy, literal and sheltered person feel so poignantly vulnerable, so human, so unexpectedly empathetic. You start the book thinking you couldn’t possibly identify with someone who spends so much of the day closeted away in tracksuit bottoms with the curtains closed, only to remain riveted to the spot, unable to do anything else but read, until you turn the last page and look up to find it's 3 p.m., the curtains are still drawn, and there you are sitting in the dark in your tracksuit bottoms.

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At Picador, the response to Kiss Me First was electric from the moment people started reading. No one could put it down and no one could stop talking about it. And here we are with posters all over the tube and a Facebook trailer viewed over 9,000 times (meaning we have received around 9,000 emails from people saying how creepy it is).

It’s a novel with a very big idea at the heart of it, and naturally a lot of the conversation around the book hinges upon this: could someone you’ve never met continue your life online once you’ve slipped away from it?

But Lottie’s achievements beyond the premise for the novel are even greater. What she does so brilliantly is take this extraordinarily high-concept premise and show us how terrifyingly plausible it is. She holds up a mirror to the world we live in and to how we behave online, the fantasies we create around our own lives, and other people’s. I don’t know of any writers who are tackling these big themes quite so directly, or so well.

What I find no less amazing about Kiss Me First now than when it was first sent to us is that it is a book of such big ideas and ambitions whilst also being so unputdownable and surprising, so moving and so funny. It’s rare and wonderful for a book to deliver on so many levels.

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