Kiss the Morning Star by Elissa Janine Hoole

 “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.”

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?

Personal Thoughts:

Most of the books included in my favorite list contains road trips theme so after reading the line “epic road trip across the USA” from the blurb, I instantly want to read Kiss The Morning Star. At that time the book isn’t out yet & I really want to read it as soon as possible so I contacted the author asking where can I possibly get a copy. She is kind enough to forward my request to her publisher whom sent me an advance reader copy all the way here to Philippines. When it arrives I’m so ecstatic to read it so I started it right away. When I finished the book I still don’t know if I like it or not. Part of me was disappointed because my expectations were not satisfied. But I’m not blaming it on the book. Surely it is not its fault that I expect too much from it.

Instead of reviewing it right away as I originally plan I decided to give it another chance. After reading few books I do a re-read, which I’m glad I did because re-reading makes me appreciate this book more. When I first read Kiss the Morning Star, I feel the awkwardness of Anna & Kat relationship from start to end. I can’t get pass thinking they aren’t supposed to feel more than best friends, even if Anna didn’t know yet what she really feels for Kat. As best friends they are promising but more than that it is just awkward. Usually, I don’t care much about gay or lesbian relationships in fictions. In fact one of my favorite character from Cassandra Clare’s The Immortal Instruments series, Magnus is gay. I did enjoy reading Magnus & Alec relationships without any awkwardness, but in here it is just hard for me to get used to it. I’m not against with girl to girl relationships, but in here, I don’t feel the connection between Anna and Kat. I’m not sure if it because Anna is too troubled and confused all through out the trip or they just don’t really fit for each other. I almost wish that Anna just end up with Seth, one of the guys they met from this road trip.

It took me a re-read to get past the awkwardness of Anna & Kat relationship. I tried to set aside that issue and just concentrate with more important topics such as faith and self-realization. The first half of the book concentrate on Anna’s search for God. Her Dad is a pastor – someone who proclaim the good news and God’s existence but when Anna’s Mom died her Dad withdrew into grief. So, Anna isn’t sure anymore whether she still believe in God or not. Which one of the reasons why she went to this road trip hoping to regain her faith.

“If you want to find proof of God’s love, you can’t go checking off a list, chasing after all these things, all these experiences you think will present evidence for you one way or the other.  If you want proof, Anna, you have to be the proof.”

The other part focus on Anna’s search for love, identity and forgiveness. Together with Kat they encounter a lot of things on the road. They met different kind of people and experience a lot of things. It is a crazy road trip with drunken thugs, kleptomaniac tour guides, tattoo artist, missionaries, grizzly bear and fortune-teller. So many things happened that somehow it doesn’t sound believable anymore. The whole trip of Anna and Kat was inspired by a book – The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. They are using it as a guide to know their next destination. They flip through random pages and read some lines from the book to see where are they headed next. It is like a game of uncertainty. The author also throw some Haiku before each chapters which was taken from The Dharma Bums. I like those haikus. I think it adds a little touch to the story. I am not well acquainted with this Dharma Bums books since I haven’t read it yet. But I am intrigue what’s in it to serve as an inspiration for a road trip. Yes, I’m intrigue but I’m not seeing myself picking a copy of The Dharma Bums in the near future. 🙂

“I used to believe in so many things—elves and leprechauns, virgins riding unicorns. I trusted that the world was made up of people who were generally good, though they may have lost their way temporarily.”

There are things that work & things that didn’t work for me but as a whole I think the author is really brave for writing a daring story with sensitive themes like religion and sexuality. Two risky subject to touch but she managed to deliver it without any hesitation. Her portrayal  of Anna as a lost and confused teenager trying to find her identity and her faith back is somehow ring true to the core.

This review is based on advance reader copy of the book I received courtesy of the author and publisher, Marshall Cavendish and contains my honest opinions about the book.

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