Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Kiss the Morning Star Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Kiss the Morning Star
Author: Elissa Janine Hoole
Genre: Young Adult Fiction

My Star Rating: 4 Stars out of 5: I Like It

Summary Statement:
High Quality Writing About Two Intelligent Teens – A Coming of Age Tale Including Sexual Preference Self-Discovery

Right off the bat I recognized that KISS THE MORNING STAR was unlike most YA fiction books being published today which made me wonder if that made it a bad book, until I realized that the two best friends who just graduated high school and were on a summer road trip of self-discovery were not two average teens. Both young ladies are smart and creatively gifted teens, so their road trip quest for God, looking for wisdom and self-discovery, as well as the intelligent writing, were appropriate.

Most YA fiction books which flood the book market are about superficial gossipy nasty teens (the rich dumb blond popular types) that focus most on fashion and social circles, and those books contain easy vocabulary filled with slang and sometimes profanity as well as various risky behaviors, done by characters in middle school and high school. I recall one popular book that featured date rape of a ninth grader with zero consequences for the boy's action. I can't stand teens behaving badly when the behavior just stands unaddressed and without any moral discussion and without true fallout "you date raped me Friday night and Monday I'm back as your friend" = pathetic baloney.

In contrast, this book and its two smart and philosophical teens has a first kiss with a boy and hints that more happened, yet lacked the details which spare it from being accused of being pornographic (and it happened years late, statistically speaking for American teens, by the way). The controversial topic of exploring feelings for, and grappling with a possible physical relationship between the two girls is treated seriously and as a true search for their own identity not just a titillating casual thing inserted in the storyline in order to try excite the reader.

These girls are on a quest and decide to try some risky and illegal behavior for their age: drinking beer, smoking pot and even trying LSD yet the experiments are treated more seriously than so many of the other YA novels (and again, things that in real American teen's lives do happen, yet in reality at much younger ages). Another controversy is one girl totes a handgun for self-protection while the other is anti-gun of any kind, and the topic is discussed several times in a serious manner, with debates pro and con.

The main character Anna is the daughter of a Christian preacher who is searching for God after spending a year in what seems like an undiagnosed clinical depression following an accident and the sudden death of her mother. The father, on leave from work, didn't speak two sentences to her in her entire senior year, seemingly also to be living with depression. A strength of the book is Anna's attempt to open up and take down the walls she erected to protect herself with.

This is serious, strong writing, yet it is so different than the typical YA fiction for girls. Who am I to complain this is atypical (and rate the book lowly) when I have complained about YA fiction for girls drivel on the market (and wished that superficial nonsense didn't even exist)? I wondered at first if this was more adult writing that would be appreciated only by adults (like me) - similar to the picture books for young children which appeal to adults but are disliked by the kids they were supposedly published for -- but then I remembered that indeed there are teen girls who actually think deep thoughts, who think about spiritual matters, and who experience tragic events and come out the other side just fine in the end.

This book is probably not for those who gobble up the quickly consumed (and easily forgotten) low vocabulary books which talk about buying lots of designer clothing, back-stabbing their best friends with gossip while getting drunk and high, even on school nights, with no negative repercussions as if "life is one big party"! This book probably will have a smaller number of readers who "get it" but I know there are girls out there who will enjoy the book.

The topic of struggling to figure out emotional feelings and wondering if one is bisexual or lesbian is another deep topic that some readers may find controversial. It is thought-provoking regardless of the reader's own personal preferences. They say that 10% of people in our society are bisexual or homosexual and we know some teens are among them. I am choosing to not stand in a position of judgment on this topic and instead will say that discovering one's sexual preferences is a normal part of growing up. Creative and intellectually gifted kids are said to have a higher incidence of homosexual preferences, so the possibility is not out of line. This topic is treated with respect and dealt with in an intelligent manner in KISS THE MORNING STAR, the focus is more on the emotions and the relationship, it's not a book filled with detailed sex scenes for pure entertainment reasons.

The book is funny and moved along at a quick pace without ever getting boring.

Regarding the hard cover book, it is printed on high quality paper that is not see-through with a strong binding, unlike most YA books. Kudos to the publisher for choosing high quality materials.

I rate this book 4 stars = I Like It. The reason I didn't give it 5 stars was that the main character seemed to be a weak Christian after being raised as a PK (preacher's kid). The author could have chosen to have her display more of a true spiritual struggle "how can there be a God if my mother can be taken from us early" type of thing. The lack of mentioning what they would do with their lives come fall was strange since virtually every teen knows what they will do after high school graduation, even if it is to work full time or take a gap year. Not mentioning the crime that was committed by taking a handgun across multiple state lines was another small problem that would have been perfect in the pro/con gun debate.

Disclosure: I was given a review copy of this book by Amazon.com's Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on the Amazon.com website. I was not paid to blog it or to review it, or to review it favorably.

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