Book Review: Gift Guide 2015: Fiction by Austin Authors

Rabb's second YA novel features more than one love story, and they're all worth telling

Gift Guide 2015: Fiction by Austin Authors

If, as one character puts it in Margo Rabb's second novel for young adults, "every poem is a love poem," then arguably every YA story is a love story. This one is canny enough to tease kissing in the title, but it's the "in America" part that's more tantalizing. Rabb's coming-of-age story has a sweep as wide as the star-spangled sky, touching on poetry, grief, friendship, feminism, Harlequin romances, Cincinnati chili, and, oh yeah, touching (strictly PG-13!).

Two years after her father's sudden death, 16-year-old Eva, Queens-born and -bred, numbs her pain and frequent panic attacks with the sweet escapism of romance paperbacks. She and her brainiac best friend Annie get a good giggle out of the books' overwrought descriptions of love and sex ("manroot" warrants a guffaw), but it isn't until Eva befriends Will, an older classmate wading through his own grief, that the idea of love stops being page-bound and becomes something tangible.

When Will moves to California before they can solidify their relationship status, Eva hops a Greyhound with Annie to find out, zagging to Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Arizona along the way. Just as Eva blossoms on the road, under the influence of new experiences and people, the book opens up, too. Rabb's snapshots of America are witty and perceptive and appropriately poetic for a narrative so consumed with the comforts of poetry and the personal risk that comes from trying to express one's self creatively. (Eva is a budding poet.) What's most striking is Rabb's compassion for her characters. Without ever losing Eva's perspective, Rabb presents an empathetic, rounded portrait of so many women and girls who are influential in her life. There's not just one love story in Kissing in America, there are many – between mothers and daughters and lifelong best friends – and they're all stories worth telling.


Kissing in America

by Margo Rabb
HarperCollins, 400 pp., $17.99
  • Gift Guide 2015: Fiction by Austin Authors

    From Hill Country mysteries to Lone Star steampunk, fantasy femmes with swords to alienated runaways with lycanthropic tendencies, there's an Austin novel for everyone on your gift list
  • Hill Country Property

    Passion, compromise, and human frailty figure large in this touching and funny Texas novel

    Bats of the Republic

    An arcane tapestry of alternate cowboy history and steampunk sci-fi in a multitextured graphic package
  • Gwendolyn's Sword

    A well-researched and swiftly paced historical novel for grown-up girls who dreamed of being knights

    Rules for Werewolves

    This tale of runaways prowling suburbia in a pack recalls the eerie unreality of The Twilight Zone

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More YA fiction
<i>Running</i> by Natalia Sylvester
Running by Natalia Sylvester
Natalia Sylvester’s YA debut makes the political personal

Rosalind Faires, Oct. 30, 2020

Books to Read and Wrap for the Holidays
Emergency Contact
It’s wry and vulnerable love via text message in this YA novel set in Austin

Rosalind Faires, Dec. 7, 2018

More Margo Rabb
Arrested Development?
Arrested Development?
Young-at-heart Austin is home to a booming Young Adult literature scene

Melanie Haupt, Dec. 24, 2010

The Latest in Paper
The Latest in Paper
Mother Knows: 24 Tales of Motherhood

Marrit Ingman, May 7, 2004

More Arts Reviews
<i>The Swallowed Man</i> by Edward Carey
The Swallowed Man
The Austin author's rich and strange take on Pinocchio has Geppetto tell the story from the belly of the giant fish

Robert Faires, Feb. 5, 2021

<i>The Zealot and the Emancipator</i> by H.W. Brands
The Zealot and the Emancipator by H.W. Brands
This history by the UT professor offers a new look at John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: side by side

Robert Faires, Dec. 25, 2020

More by Kimberley Jones
We Have an Issue: Don’t Let Them Get Away With It
We Have an Issue: Don’t Let Them Get Away With It
It’s time to reckon with how our state governemnt failed us – and if it was by design

Feb. 26, 2021

Updated: Boil Water Notice Lifted for All Austin Water Customers
Updated: Boil Water Notice Lifted for All Austin Water Customers
Tap water now cleared for consumption

Feb. 22, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

YA fiction, Margo Rabb, Gift Guide 2015

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle