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Kiss the Morning Star by Elissa Janine Hoole
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Kiss the Morning Star

by Elissa Janine Hoole

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In college, I took a history class on counterculture, which focused primarily on the Beats. What I learned above all was that I really do not like the Beat poets. Drugs and narcissism and the philosophies those inspire. Anyway, totally not for me. Of them, I did like Kerouac the best, but, still, I was not especially impressed. The quotes in this book from Kerouac definitely remind me why I didn't like them.

However, I do like this book, with its road trip inspired by Kerouac. Actually, I like it a whole, whole lot. I actually haven't read too many road trip books, probably because I don't read too much realistic fiction, living mainly in the fantasy genre. At any rate, this one is definitely not like the ones that I've read so far, a lot darker and more messed up, but in a real life kind of way.

Some road trip novels are fluffy, fun little journeys full of misadventures. This one has misadventures, but they're definitely of a more intense, dangerous variety: attacks by strangers, bears, experiments with sexuality, and drugs. I spent a lot of the book completely horrified, trying to talk the girls out of blundering into yet another terrible position. Of course, they didn't listen to me.

Anna's really messed up, and that's why this works. Her mother's death has pretty much destroyed Anna and her father. With her father, a preacher's retreat into himself, Anna's left to her own devices and lives a sort of half-life. She has lost her faith and neglected friends. Katy proposes the trip as a way of trying to help Anna find herself and her faith again. That's why I loved this book. It's so full of introspection and Anna trying to find her way, even though it's painful and she kind of doesn't want to. She made me so incredibly angry, but, seeing from her perspective, it was also hard to judge her, especially since she already had that under control.

I loved the format of the novel. Each chapter begins with a Kerouac quote, which, though I don't like Kerouac much, I appreciate, given that the whole novel was on some level inspired by his writing. Next comes a brief snippet from Anna's journal, which is cool, because she has a really interesting writing style and includes more reflection than the bulk of the chapter. Then there's the main part of the chapter, which depicts the latest happenings on their road trip. My favorite part, though, were the lists at the end of most of the chapters. These also come from Anna's journal, and are both funny and make me feel really connected to Anna's character, since they're her way of understanding and coping with the world.

The writing was also really beautiful. Although I'm not a big poetry fan, I liked the haikus she threw in now and again. There were so many amazing quotes in this novel that it was rather difficult to choose just one. I definitely recommend this to people who like to read dark stories that confront some serious issues, or people interested in the 1960s/1970s (even though this is modern) culture.

Also, I have what I think is an amazing idea for a companion novel: I would love to read a story about someone who found one of Katy's Good Lock drawings. Whether that happens or not, I look forward to reading more from Hoole!
( )
1 vote A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
Road trip books are just one of those types of things that will never grow old. In some areas, Kiss the Morning Star lived up to the other books in the genre, in others it was laking bit. Overall, the novel was able to forge strong connections and personal revelations.

What I thought was comparable to other great road trip books was the adventure. There was definitely some weird interactions! But in a good way - the journey was fun and unique. What added depth was that the characters did not launch their trip out of happiness, but out of grief. As they tour the U.S., they are also (in the least cheesy way possible) touring their own subconscious; coming to terms with who they are and what they do and do not have to power to change as an individual. The development the characters go through is impressive. I was not expecting the more romantic side to the plot and the characters. So, there are for sure a few surprises.

My criticism lies in the parts that felt kind of slow or forced. Some of the interactions between the two main characters (and a few between the MC and supporting characters) felt really awkward and uncomfortable. I'm sure the author meant for this to an extent, but at some parts I just wanted to cringe (and did). This is not me objecting to the actions, but that the true emotions did not transfer and instead seemed uncomfortable for the characters (and consequentially, the reader).

If you're a road trip lover, I'd give it a shot. ( )
  ilikethesebooks | Apr 5, 2012 |
I love a good road trip book. KISS THE MORNING STAR, a debut novel from Elissa Janine Hoole is just that -- a road trip book, heavily influenced by Jack Kerouac. Hoole's characters are taking a tip from DHARMA BUMS and heading on a "last hoorahs" trip the summer after college. The girls, Anna and Katy, are best friends, have known each other their whole lives -- and yet, something's off. Anna knows why -- the loss of her mother has left her guarded, quiet, scared. And Katy probably knows why, too. She's tired of treating Anna with kid gloves, she's tired of waiting for her friend to come back.

As the two girls bicker on the road, across state lines, running into creepy pastors, thieving small town mean girls, tattoo artists, hippies, and bears, they're learning each other's secrets. There's Katy's gun for one thing. And Anna's notebook is full of confessions. Like, what if she's falling in love with her best friend?

Both a friendship story and a romance, a story of grief and of recovery, KISS THE MORNING STAR is refreshing and new -- a story I haven't read before. It's the story of two girls finding themselves and each other, of reconciling with family, of camping in the woods and leaving no trace, of art and literature and America. Hoole's debut is an absolute treat. I'll be looking for some stars on this title, for sure. ( )
1 vote EKAnderson | Mar 27, 2012 |
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The summer after high school graduation and one year after her mother's tragic death, Anna and her long-time best friend Kat set out on a road trip across the country, armed with camping supplies and a copy of Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums, determined to be open to anything that comes their way.… (more)

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