Identity Crisis

While I'm not one of those people wringing their hands over modern internet culture, there's no denying that there's a lot that can be said about how we communicate these days. It's a rich source of material, not only for navel-gazing thinkpieces, but for fiction writers. On the web, you can be anyone, and that suggests tons of stories. One of those stories is Lottie Moggach's 2013 novel, Kiss Me First.

The book centers around Leila, an introverted woman who spends all her time either online or taking care of her sick mother. When her mother passes away, Leila finds the friends she never made in real life on a site where users debate ethical issues. The charismatic leader of the site singles her out for a strange project: How would Leila feel about impersonating another woman online? It's not as if the woman (Tess) minds; she's fully on-board with Leila effectively taking over her life.

As Leila progresses with the project, she becomes progressively more wrapped up in the aspects of Tess' personality. She has no problem off-handedly messaging Tess' friends and family, but when it comes to the man who got away, Leila cannot help but become invested. Obviously, complications ensue.

Though it's a bit strange, I really enjoy the premise of assuming someone else's life online, told from the perspective of the faker. Unfortunately, Leila is not interesting enough a character to carry the story. If she had been forced to interact more with other people, be they on the web or face-to-face at the hippie commune where she seeks Tess out, maybe it would have been a better read. As it is, we spend most of the book in Leila's head, and she's not a great person to spend that much time with.

It's not that she's unlikable - her being an out-and-out jerk would have given the plot some much-needed urgency - it's that she's bland and annoying. Since she's introverted and anti-social, she doesn't understand that there are people out there who need to form real, honest connections, and though the book makes an attempt to have this realization dawn on her, I wound up not really caring what this woman learned or how she wound up.

Sometimes, I don't like a book because it's written poorly. This is not the case here; Moggach is a perfectly capable writer. But talented writers can still tell dull stories, and I'm sorry to say that Kiss Me First somehow finds a way to make identity theft boring.

Kiss Me First: C


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