Kiss Me First – the story of a solitary and reclusive young woman inevitably drawn into a website run by an inspirational and charismatic leader who convinces her to assume the identity of another woman: one who has lived a colourful life but now just wants to slip away, unnoticed, and disappear forever.
Leila never really had much luck with the outside world. Out of sync with modern-day customs and language, she spends her time in her dingy flat playing World of Warcraft. After her mum died of MS there was no one, or anything, significant in her life. Then she meets Adrian Dervish through the website Red Pill, and her life literally changes into someone else’s. She has progressive views on euthanasia, so could she assist someone in suicide? Not physically, but mentally. She would inevitable taking on their identity – emailing friends and family, updating Facebook, so everyone would be spared the pain of their death.
I never really examined such a subject as a concept for a type of modern, psychological thriller. Not only did this intrigue me, but it had the added bonus that I had absolutely no idea where this narrative would take me. Characters and ideas were laid out very well, and it became apparent very early on that all the main personalities in the book – whether they actually knew it or not – were not what they appeared.
Leila and Tess, the woman she is tasked with impersonating once she ‘checks out’ couldn’t be more different. Socially-awkward and cooly-logical Leila struggles to get into the mindset of the older, vivacious Tess whose whirlwind life of drugs, sex, and friends has been finally overshadowed by her long-term debilitating mental health problems. Through months of conversation and research, Leila tries to ascertain what exactly makes Tess, ‘Tess’ so she can inevitable ‘become’ her. She prepares herself for any questions friends and family might in the future so as not to arouse their suspicions. On an entirely subjective level, Leila succeeds in pulling this off – but the unpredictability of human nature is something she can never prepare for.
The one problem I had with this novel was the pacing. It built itself up like a roller coaster in the dark, ready to plummet, but I couldn’t tell when. There were so many turns that I was mentally guessing what was around every corner, trying to find tips and clues in all the wrong places, and was pleasantly surprised when the truth was revealed. However, the last third of the book was disappointing. I was expecting a startling and grinding halt, but it came to a slow chug that literally had me expecting more. I actually turned the last page expecting more, never really coming to any definite conclusion. To me, Leila was not the most likeable of protagonists, and very often I struggled to identify with her in a way I never did with Tess, but I did find myself sympathising with her at times – most often her struggle to make a smooth transition from the online world into reality, which made her situation all the more powerful.
Moggach tells a story of stolen identity with almost frightening ease, and sheds some interesting views on the proverbial grey area that is the ethics of euthanasia. She also succeeds in highlighting the lies and unfathomable idiosyncrasies that people use in order to manipulate and deceive others.