Mini-Reviews: Kissing in America and The Devil You Know

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Welcome to another installment of Mini-Reviews! Summer's upon us and I'm here to tell you about two YA books that feature road trips -- one comic and one tragic:

Kissing in America
by Margo Rabb
Published by Harper Teen
on May 26, 2015

Source: eARC from publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: In the two years since her father died, sixteen-year-old Eva has found comfort in reading romance novels—118 of them, to be exact—to dull the pain of her loss that’s still so present. Her romantic fantasies become a reality when she meets Will, who seems to truly understand Eva’s grief. Unfortunately, after Eva falls head-over-heels for him, he picks up and moves to California without any warning. Not wanting to lose the only person who has been able to pull her out of sadness—and, perhaps, her shot at real love—Eva and her best friend, Annie, concoct a plan to travel to the west coast to see Will again. As they road trip across America, Eva and Annie confront the complex truth about love. 

My take:  I loved the opening chapters of Kissing in America, which read like a quiet contemporary romance. Eva, a reserved high school student with hidden depths, falls for the charismatic Will. I really related to Eva --  to the awkwardness of her adolescent longings and her sadness over her father's sudden death two years prior. I loved this part of the story even though, as an adult reader, I could see that the sensitive but model-dating Will was never going to appreciate an understated girl like Eva. Of course, Eva doesn't see this at all, and when Will abruptly moves to California, she hatches a plan: she'll get her brainy best friend Annie to become a contestant on The Smartest Girl in America. The show is filmed in California, and Eva sees this as a way to get back to Will.

This was where the story began to go off the rails for me. I didn't actually mind the crazy outlandishness of Eva's scheme, but I didn't love the way it changed the tone of the book completely. The girls' road trip felt to me like a weird, madcap journey meant to teach Eva some Important Life Lessons. I was looking forward to the scenes with the quiz show (I'm nerdy like that) but then Eva did something really awful that I had a hard time getting past and all the quiz show stuff went right out the window. (You can read the spoilers on my Goodreads review.) I was so disappointed in Eva.

Kissing In America featured beautiful writing and some really poignant moments that had to do with Eva's longing for Will and her attempts to deal with her father's death. But I wish the book had just stuck to that. To me, the addition of the comedic parts -- the quiz show, Eva's obsession with bodice ripper novels and the weird characters the girls met on their road trip -- felt jarring and discordant. But other readers may feel completely differently. If you love quirky road trips, you might want to try this out.

The Devil You Know
by Trish Doller

To be published by Bloomsbury
on June 2, 2015

Source: ARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions. 

My take: I'm a big Trish Doller fan -- I love the way she writes about tough, imperfect girls who find romance. So I'm sorry to say that The Devil You Know hit some wrong notes for me. I loved the Everglades atmosphere the book sets up and I felt a lot of compassion for Cadie, who lost her mother and had to take on a lot of adult responsibilities.

I'm a veteran thriller reader and I felt that all the twists in this book were pretty easy to spot. As in another YA book with a similar premise (Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick) I struggled with the juxtaposition of a swoony romantic vibe with some very disturbing violence, but maybe that's just my issue. I also struggled with Cadie's decisions, all of which were explained by the fact that she needed to cut loose from her responsibilities at home. But for me, the biggest stumbling point in this book was the romance.  My thoughts on that are spoilery, so if you want to read them, they are under protection on my Goodreads review.  Overall, I'll say that I think I would have liked The Devil You Know much better as a female empowerment story than a romance.

Have you read either of these? Let me know what you think in comments!


  1. Kissing in America seems pretty interesting! I think I'll try to find it and read it :)

    I am a little concerned about The Devil You Know because it takes much of the enjoyment to be able to spot the twists in a book.

    Aeriko @

  2. Hmm, I like some roadtrips, and like the sound of the well done moments sorry the jarring changes didn't work well for you

  3. I haven't read either, but I did peruse reviews of Kissing in America, and I was pretty sure that I wouldn't read it after all. I'm disappointed about The Devil You Know though. It seemed to have so much promise. Sigh.

  4. I've been reading reviews for Kissing in America for a while now and most of them say similar things as you Jen. I liked the synopsis for it, but ultimately it seems like it just isn't for me. Also, i'm not a hundred percent sure how I feel about The Devil You Know now. I did enjoy Black Ice but I've got my own reservations about it now...
    Lily @ Lilysbookblog

  5. I'm bummed you didn't like these more. I want to see the spoiler for Kissing in America so bad, but I am refraining... for now lol.

  6. You KNOW I went right to your spoilers. Laughing so hard right now at your commentary for TDYK.

  7. I was excited about Kissing In America, but I kind of lost interest somewhere along the way. It's a shame that the book started off really well for you, but then went downhill. :( I just read your spoiler for that one, but wow! I think I would really hate the MC for what she does.

    I liked The Devil You Know, but I agree that it should have been more of an empowerement story too. I was irritated by how blind Caddy was to what was going on around her. I liked for being a thriller, but I wasn't a fan of the romance either.

    Lovely reviews, Jen!

  8. These are both new to me....thanks for bringing them to my attention :)

  9. Kissing in America isn't really for me. For one, I don't really read that much contemporary, and even if I didn, it doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy. But I actually liked Black Ice and I like Trish, so I'll give The Devil You Know a chance, but I'll keep my expectations on a reasonable level.

  10. I felt pretty much the same way about Kissing in America as you did - while the writing was quality, the plot and romance didn't work for me, as well as Eva's selfish actions.

    Have yet to read The Devil You Know - but am a huge Trish Dollar fan - I'll be interested to read it in light of your thoughts!

  11. I'll be listening to the audio for both of these soon, I'm especially excited for The Devil You Know.

  12. I don't know Trish Dollar but I've seen this one making its way around the blogosphere. Sad that it's a cookie cutter of thriller. I feel that I've read so many thriller books that it's hard to be impressed anymore. Blah. Thanks for the reviews Jen!

  13. The Devil You Know is one I have been thinking about because I have seen it everywhere, but maybe I shouldn't be too excited? I am shamed that this was such a huge disappointment to you :(

  14. I haven't read any of these yet, and I'm a bit on the fence about them as your problems with it are making me wary! A lot of thriller books don't really shock me these days either, although I don't blame them because it's hard to surprise a veteran thriller reader as originality is hard to come by. That's why I just look forward to how they are executed!

    As for Kissing in America, it's not my kinda read anyway, so I'd probably pass on it.

    Faye at The Social Potato


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