Kissing in America

★ “Wise, inspiring, and ultimately uplifting—not to be missed.”—Kirkus 

★ “Hilarious, thought-provoking, wrenching and joyful.”—Publishers Weekly

★ “Exquisitely told…exposes readers to weighty ideas.”–BCCB

★ “Rollicking, eye-opening…a smart teen’s novel.”–Booklist

“Funny and big-hearted…bursting with resonant themes of love, death, family, art and identity.”–The New York Times Book Review

  • A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year
  • A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year
  • A Bank Street Best Book of the Year
  • A Miami Herald Best Book of the Year
  • American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • Amelia Bloomer Project List of Recommended Feminist Literature
  • An Oprah Summer Reading List Selection
  • A Spirit of Texas Selection
  • A TAYSHAS High School Reading List Selection
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month
  • An Amazon Best Young Adult Summer Read
  • A Booklist Top 10 Romance for Youth
  • A Publisher’s Lunch 2015 Buzz Book for Young Adults
  • Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
  • Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
  • Starred Review, Booklist
  • Starred Review, BCCB


“You wouldn’t be completely remiss in at first assuming that ‘Kissing in America’ is a dishy romance novel like the kind its main character, Eva Roth, reads obsessively. After all, it begins with 16-year-old Eva chronicling her mad crush on ‘weird and popular’ Will Freeman. But from there it takes a sharp turn into tragedy when they reveal to each other their hidden hurts: Eva’s adored father died in a plane crash, and Will lost an infant brother to SIDS.

Before their relationship can deepen, Will is forced to leave New York and move in with his father in Los Angeles. So Eva and her brainy best friend, Annie, devise a scheme that involves taking a bus across the country to be on a California quiz show. Annie hopes to score a scholarship while Eva just dreams of seeing Will again. Along the way, they meet an idiosyncratic cross section of family and strangers who help Eva put both her grief and her feelings for Will into perspective. In contrast to her cherished romances, there is no guarantee that Eva’s journey will have a happy ending — unless she finds a way through her sorrow to make it so.

“Real love is a leap,” her mother’s friend advises. “We never know if there’s any ground beneath our feet. . . . But we leap anyway.” Rabb’s funny and big-hearted second novel is bursting with resonant themes of love, death, family, art and identity, fully embodied in a diverse cast of wonderfully fallible and entertaining characters.” —Jennifer Hubert Swan, The New York Times Book Review

★ “Best friends leave New York City for the first time and take a transformative road trip to Los Angeles. Sixteen-year-old Eva Roth’s penchant for reading romance novels (118 at last count) is termed “your ultimate rebellion” by her mom, a women’s studies professor. Eva is a poet, and she used to write alongside her beloved father, but when he died in a plane crash two years earlier she stopped writing. Rabb eloquently gets grief right in this compassionate, perceptive, and poignant story, deftly leavened with irreverent humor, of a girl in conflict with her mother. Poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Nikki Giovanni, Marie Howe, and others are so beautifully integrated into the first-person narrative that the poetry comes alive. Eva’s burgeoning, heart-stopping relationship with senior Will Freeman initially helps her begin to find a way out of grief, as does her smart, empathetic best friend, Annie Kim, with whom she can share the absurdity of it all. But Will unexpectedly moves to California, and with Annie’s participation, Eva comes up with a truly creative road-trip plan—one in which America, land of endless possibilities, serves as a backdrop for unexpected love. And love is really what this remarkable story is all about. Wise, inspiring, and ultimately uplifting—not to be missed.”—Kirkus (Starred Review)

★ “In this indelible coming-of-age story, Rabb seamlessly weaves together multiple narratives: families coping with death, immigrants determined to make it in America, the power of education to transform lives, reality TV offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, first love, first heartbreak, and the conflicted, ardent passion of a mother/daughter relationship. After Eva’s father dies in a plane crash, she lives with an awareness that “the very worst thing you imagine, your biggest fear, does happen,” a fear she mitigates by avidly reading romance fiction. Eva’s mother, a women’s studies professor, disparages the books, but for 16-year-old Eva, “those feelings felt as real and true as any other feelings I’d ever felt. As real and true as grief.” A cross-country bus trip expands Eva’s world as she and her best friend Annie encounter people who “never met a Jewish person before” and discover that “real-life cowboys were better than fictional ones.” Sprinkled with the poetry Eva reads and writes, this story makes for a hilarious, thought-provoking, wrenching, and joyful quest.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

★ “Exquisitely told . . . With poetry from Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop, and Adrienne Rich, among others, that punctuate Eva’s feelings, and plentiful humor based on Eva’s impression of love from romance novels, this is a well-balanced read that exposes readers to weighty ideas and difficult feelings while keeping them entertained and emotionally invested. Rabb has done a skillful trick: only after this story ends does it become obvious that it wasn’t really about Will or even first love but about Eva, her mother, and the many different types of love that exist and that sustain us.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (Starred Review)

★ “One kiss. That’s all it took for 16-year-old Eva’s fantasy world of poetry and romance novels to become real. Sharing the grief of her father’s plane-crash death and her mother’s refusal to mourn with Will makes the memories and frustrations less harsh because, just as her romances promise, love conquers all. Until Will unexpectedly moves to California. How to see Will again? Have brilliant best friend Annie enter the Smartest Girl in America contest, be her companion “lifeline,” travel to L.A. to the competition—and just happen to see Will in the process. Thus begins the girls’ rollicking, eye-opening cross-country bus adventure from New York City to Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, and finally to the competition’s TV set in California. This is a smart teen’s novel. Poems abound, gracing each section and quoted in special moments and memories. Annie is drop-dead smart, and Will is subtly intelligent and more attuned to the world’s harsh realities. But all Rabb’s characters are authentic and complex, including the adults who are trying desperately to do the right thing for themselves and the young people around them, sometimes awkwardly and occasionally very badly. Rabb knows the perfect point to interject humor to diffuse a potentially devastating situation—and there are many!—a leavening of sorts to the reality that death and love inexplicitly alter the landscape of a person’s life.”— Frances Bradburn, Booklist (Starred Review)

“Two years ago, Eva Roth’s father was killed in a plane crash, which is still being investigated. Eva’s grief is as fresh as it was the day he died, but her mother seems determined to move on and expects Eva to do the same. As her mother becomes increasingly uncommunicative and obsessed with work, Eva tries to escape her pain by focusing on preparing for college; studying with her best friend, Annie; and losing herself in the pages of romance novels. When the teen is paired with high school heartthrob, Will, in an after-school tutoring session, she discovers that he, too, has lost a family member. Their shared understanding of loss and pain draws them into a relationship that is abruptly halted when Will has to move from New York to Los Angeles. Following the advice of her favorite romance novelist, Eva determines to find a way to go “get her man.” She convinces the brilliant Annie to enter the two of them in an academic teen game show that promises a trip to Los Angeles and a $200,000 scholarship to the winner. Together they embark on a cross-country adventure that will test their friendship, and ultimately bring Eva to a deeper understanding of herself and her family. With a full cast of multidimensional characters, this novel explores the complex nature of relationships and the many faces of grief and love with equal parts humor and poignancy. VERDICT A first purchase for most YA collections.”—Cary Frostick, School Library Journal

“Rabb’s coming-of-age story has a sweep as wide as the star-spangled skyRabb’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.” –-Kimberley Jones, The Austin Chronicle

Kissing in America is about love and grief and friendship; about mothers and daughters, about blood relatives and kindred spirits; about the journey from childhood to adulthood, girlhood to womanhood. It’s about the different paths people take to America, and how those disparate paths and histories affect their children. It’s about fantasy and real life, and how you can embrace both; about feminism and romance, and how you can embrace both; about living in books and living in the world, and how you can embrace both. It’s about going somewhere for someone, versus going somewhere for yourself; looking forward to beginning Real Life, versus beginning Real Life right now, at this very moment.The poetry Eva reads and Rabb quotes is impeccably picked—it’s predominantly by female poets, and it enhances and supports the story without overwhelming it, it highlights the timeless aspects of Eva’s journey and awakening without being too on-the-nose. The characters are three-dimensional—none of them are perfect, and none of them are evil—and their relationships are real and complicated and true. It’s beautifully written, smart and warm and sensitive—I dog-eared so many pages, marked so many phrases and passages that I loved for their rhythm or humor or vision or grace, that my dog-ears and markings became useless. It made me laugh until I choked, and it made me cry at the circulation desk—it’s a book that made my heart feel full.

I loved everything—EVERYTHING—about it, about Eva and her story and THE UTTER JOY of her habit of fantasizing about her life.” –Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom

“Kissing in America is a wonderful novel about friendship, love, travel, life, hope, poetry, intelligence, and the inner lives of girls — all the things, to put it simply, that I like best in a book. I loved it.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, internationally bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love

“That Margo Rabb can write a story so gorgeous, funny, and joyous that is also unsentimental and honest is a testament to her skill and to her heart. I loved everything about Eva and the supporting cast in this beautiful novel.” —Sara Zarr, author of The Lucy Variations

“Wonderful…Margo Rabb has created nothing less than a women’s map of American mythologies.” —E. Lockhart, New York Times bestselling author of We Were Liars