“If everyone in the world is an asshole, then maybe you’re the problem.”
Have you ever had a book slap you in the face?
I Kissed Alice did that to me.
IKA was thrown onto my radar by a friend of mine. When she gave me the run down – Alice. Queer. Enemies to Lovers. – I KNEW it was a book I had to have.
I connected with this book WAY. TOO. MUCH. I almost feel shameful for saying that, but hey – we all fuck up as humans, especially as teenagers. We hurt each other, question who we are, and struggle with understanding the nuances of the world around us.
Literature reflects those things back to us, even when it’s not easy for us to recognize.
Before I begin the review, I do want to note a few things :
- This is not a comedy.
- This is a real-life, toxic, messy relationship portrayal.
- TW: drugs, mental health, cheating, bullying, parental abuse
- The marketing of this book was pretty awful. The book itself is very good, but it is heavy and intense. It is not a light, fluffy read.
Rhodes and Iliana couldn’t be more different, but that’s not why they hate each other.
Hyper-gifted artist Rhodes has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts despite a secret bout of creator’s block, while transfer student Iliana tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.
They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a graphic novel. And despite being the worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other…a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?
“She says she sees this version of Alice in me and reminds me almost daily that being brave simply means doing the hard thing—even if you’re terrified.”
Plot: ★★★★ 1/2
World: ★★★★ 1/2
Character Development: ★★★★
Total Rating Rounded to ★★★★
What if Alice in Wonderland was set in space, and also written by two people who loath each other?!
I Kissed Alice is messy. It’s messy AF if I’m being completely honest. AND. I. LOVED. IT.
The story follows two HS art students – Iliana & Rhodes – who hate each other vehemently and also, unfortunately, share a best friend, Sarah. Rhodes and Sarah live on campus, while Iliana lives with her parents off-campus. The majority of the novel revolves around the tug of war friendship that the girls’ participate in. The girls also happen to be co-writers of a very popular Alice in Wonderland webcomic – yet they OBVIOUSLY have no idea. Add to the mix that all three girls are competing for the top prize of a scholarship in the Capstone competition that could change their lives, the drama continues to unfold.
Birch has already proven to be a sufficent writer. Her prose immerses you into a world that is easily navigated in terms of world-building. It also provides context to the toxic traits of teenage friendships that cause such mayhem in our lives, and in ourselves.
“It’s very grown and mature and part of being a woman to look loss in the face and keep moving forward. But I am my own devil. I created this hellspace for myself, and I don’t know if I have the courage to rip off the bandage to set Rhodes free.”
This novel takes a hard, realistic, and unpleasant look at friendships. I cannot say that enough. There are so many novels that portray these friendships as healthy and sought after. However – Birch gives us a different take. Here we see real-life grit – girls who are catty, and vindictive. Girls who lie, and cheat, and frame each other for things. That’s not to say that healthy friendships are bad – they aren’t, they are actually the thing that builds us up and helps us soar. However, we have all been through friendships that are toxic and messy. THIS is that story. We have all had at least ONE friendship that was toxic on every level. Both friendships involve Sarah, and this leaves the reader slightly confused as to the dynamics initially but the story quickly brings us up to speed with context and conversations.
The one thing I struggled with is that there wasn’t much info given on their relationship before the start of the book. Additionally, I felt like the event that brought about the demise of Iliana and Rhodes friendship wasn’t really fleshed out. We are eventually told what happened – but not in full context. It’s a rushed passage that really let me down.
Self growth is a central theme to the arc of both main characters, as jealousy keeps both girls in its ever-tightening clutches. Each girl struggles with her own version of the events, the other’s friendship, and the bitterness of hate. While we don’t see a lot of growth on Iliana’s part, Rhodes’ growth was really relatable. She was vulnerable, strong, determined, and confused. Her character gave a depth to the story that would have been lacking without her.
Another key element in this novel is priveledge. Who has it, who doesn’t, and how it effects the outcomes of events. While the main characters are white, they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. It isn’t explicitly discussed but touched on a number of times:
“According to Sarah, Iliana left Victory Hills High School like she leaves everything else: scorched earth, dousing every bridge with gasoline and dropping matches on her way out. Sarah told me once that she doesn’t know which came first: Iliana hating, or being hated.”
The Online Romance was adorable. Between the illustrations in the book to the dialogue between the girls, while online, these pieces of the story showed the love and respect that they had for each other. I wish we had seen more of this through out the novel. I feel like it really added the layer that was missing in the dynamics between the girls.
- Cute Girls
- Art School
- Online Romance
- Friends – to – enemies – to – lovers
- Family dynamics
- Indistuighable POVS
- Boring side characters
- Rushed events
- Random characters thrown in
- NOT marketed properly
While I really enjoyed the novel, I felt that the character growth could have been more fleshed out. The twist at the end was predictable, and didn’t give much resolution. Even so – I am eager to see what’s next for this author. This was a solid, but maybe not STAND OUT, debut!