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Kiss Me First A chilling and intense first novel the story of a solitary young woman drawn into an online world run by a charismatic web guru who entices her into impersonating a glamorous but desperate woman When Leila discovers the Web site Red Pill she feels she has finally found people who understand her A sheltered young woman raised by her mother Leila has often struggled to connect with the girls at school; but on Red Pill a chat forum for ethical debate Leila comes into her own impressing the Web site's founder a brilliant and elusive man named Adrian Leila is thrilled when Adrian asks to meet her flattered when he invites her to be part of Project Tess Tess is a woman Leila might never have met in real life She is beautiful urbane witty and damaged As they e mail chat and Skype Leila becomes enveloped in the world of Tess learning every single thing she can about this other woman—because soon Leila will have to become her An ingeniously plotted novel of stolen identity Kiss Me First is brilliantly frightening about the lies we tell—to ourselves to others for good and for ill

  • Hardcover
  • 308 pages
  • Kiss Me First
  • Lottie Moggach
  • English
  • 22 February 2016
  • 9780385537476

About the Author: Lottie Moggach

Lottie Moggach is a journalist who has written for The Times Financial Times Time Out Elle G and The London Paper She lives in north London Kiss Me First is her first novel

10 thoughts on “Kiss Me First

  1. Carol Carol says:

    I loved this creepy compelling atypical suspense novel I was engrossed in the story from beginning to endLeila is extremely bright but a most unreliable narrator as she is sorely unperceptive and socially inept She has led a private existence with few if any close friends Her only intimate relationship was with her mother with MS and she has died as the novel begins So Adrian a menacing but charismatic computer chat room founder easily targets and then grooms Leila to impersonate a woman Tess online after she commits suicideso that family and friends are unaware of her deathI thoroughly enjoyed reading along as Leila meets Tess through emails and Skype and begins the process of taking over her personality once Tess has “checked out” The book is a fascinating exploration of this main theme assuming another identity especially as it relates to social media and the internet It was disturbing and also believable because Leila is reclusive and chooses to spend most of her time online within social media and chat room sites rather than fostering friendships in the real worldLeila isn’t particularly likable and yet she is sympathetic because she's so unbelievably naïve and obtuse in spite of her brains and computer expertise I suirmed and blushed for her as she so clumsy at human relationships becomes infatuated with Connor an ex boyfriend of the gorgeous but deeply troubled Tess This online connection between the painfully deluded Leila and Connor is unnerving but compulsive readingI gave this a 4 star rating instead of 5 because the ending felt abrupt and inadeuate It’s still a dark fascinating tale well worth reading

  2. Andrew Andrew says:

    The idea in a nutshell was this The woman—Tess—would inform her family and friends that she intended to move abroad to start a new life in some distant inaccessible place She would hand over to me all the information I would need to convincingly impersonate her online from passwords to biographical information Then on the day of her “flight” she would disappear somewhere and dispose of herself in a discreet manner handing the reins of her life over to me From then on I would assume her identity answering e mails operating her Facebook page and so forth leaving her loved ones none the wiser that she was no longer alive In this way I would help facilitate her wish to kill herself without causing pain to her friends and family to slip away from the world unnoticed“Naturally your immediate concern will be whether she is of sound mind” said Adrian “Well I’ve known Tess for a while now and I can assure you she knows exactly what she’s doing Is she a colorful character? Yes Crazy? Absolutely not”After that reassurance my thoughts then turned to practical matters As long as I had the relevant information to hand I thought the logistics of imitating this woman online seemed fairly straightforward answering the odd e mail a few status updates a week Adrian told me the woman was uite old in her late thirties; hopefully that meant she wouldn’t even write in text speakRather my worries were about the premise and the conclusion of the operation Was this “new life abroad” a plausible move for Tess in the first place? And vitally how long would the project last? After all I couldn’t impersonate this woman indefinitelyThe debate over legalizedassisted suicide is a touchy subject as much now as it was when Jack Kevorkian was first given the label “Dr Death” More than likely we’ll never find a suitable middle ground between the two extremes—those on one end promoting the sanctity of life no matter how agonizing an individual’s situation and those campaigning for an individual’s legal right to choose if they so desire the time place and method of their self disposal and whether or not they need help to make it all a realityLottie Moggach’s first novel Kiss Me First introduces us to two women the mid twenties shut in and World of Warcraft obsessed Leila and the almost forty severely bipolar Tess The two women were introduced to one another by a third party—the enigmatic smooth talking manipulative libertarian cum objectivist and Ayn Rand worshipper Adrian Dervish Adrian is the owner and operator of the website The Red Pill “an oasis of reason a forum for intellectual inuiry” The website takes its name from the film The Matrix—from the pill Neo Keanu Reeves takes to pull back the curtain of his own isolationist reality and expose his mind to the truth of his surroundings The site’s name is a targeted attack aimed at nerd stereotypes—those for whom the world outside of their computer monitors is uninteresting and void of worthwhile interactions These are Adrian’s freedom thinkers—minds he knows due to their limited social awareness will be easily swayed by Philosophy 101 ideas and discussions that make every one of them feel superior in some way to the sheep grazing just outside their carefully walled gardenFollowing her mother’s death from complications resulting from Multiple Sclerosis Leila finds solace in The Red Pill’s community and uickly rises to the top of the “intellectual” pile Her posts catch Adrian’s attention and after some time he comes to her with a proposal to help a young woman who’s lost her will to live—to help this young woman calmly uietly end her life in a way that will prevent any caring loving party from ever being the wiser Why? Supposedly to prevent her family and friends the pain of learning of their daughter’sfriend’slover’s demise and to instead make them think as if she’s simply cut all ties in an effort to find herself a play that seems almost as cold if not colder than allowing them to think it was simply suicide as it points the finger less at this woman’s inner pain and at the people in her life as if to say “it’s not me it’s you”This of course is Tess—traditionally described bombshell exterior malignant troubled exhausted interior desperate for a way to put an end to her up and down existence which has worn away her resolveThe plan? For Leila to learn and absorb every salient detail of Tess’s life—from family events relationships and her youth to private details like random sexual encounters drug use and arguments and dissolved friendships For several weeks Leila interviewed Tess about her life down to her most secreted away moments charting all of it like points on a map so that following Tess’s “checkout” on April 14th Leila could then assume Tess’s identity in order to falsely prolong her life while the genuine artefact finds a discreet opportunity and method through which to end her emotionally pained existenceOf course not everything goes as plannedKiss Me First is a first hand account written after the fact as Leila is reflecting upon her time as Tess’s surrogate—time spent crafting a life as if she were piecing together an online avatar for a game What’s clear from the outset is that the truth of Leila’s actions have been revealed as has Adrian’s culpability as the leader of an Internet suicide cult responsible for synching gullible shut ins with people who wish or think they wish to end their lives—people with significant money to be given to Adrian prior to their “checkout” Following rather icy conversations with some of the important people in Tess’s life and the police Leila embarks on a journey to trace Tess’s final days in hopes of putting a grace note on the whole ordeal so that she and others can move on from this messWhat else is clear from the outset? Leila is not a likable character Nor for that matter is she a relatable one In fact this brings up the single largest problem I had with Kiss Me First there is not one likeable character in the entire book—not Jonty the annoying if I knew him I would kill him myself roommate; not Tess whose decision to end her life in a way that would supposedly spare her loved ones pain is actually selfish and destructive than if she had simply put a gun in her mouth; not Connor the former lover with secrets all his own again selfish to the core; and most certainly not Adrian whose modus operandi is to prey on those who rely on the simplest of online interactions to feel as if they have something worth living forLeila however is the most difficult to like—problematic since she’s our main point of entry into this whole sordid affair As a character she’s horribly uneven Due to her mom’s struggle with MS Leila was forced to grow up a bit uicker than most This affords her a certain amount of sympathy but her later interactions show a dichotomy that never feels resolved she has clear issues with social interaction evidenced by the rather blunt unfriendly manner in which she sifts through potential roommates yet she knows all the uestions she needs to ask Tess in order to provide a close approximation of her identity; she has a critical mind but is easily taken in by Adrian’s soft spoken platitudes; she is seemingly aware of her difficulties engaging with real life humans and approaches such things from a moderately analytical point of view yet she becomes twisted and obsessed with Connor with so little precursorIt’s that last part that gave me the greatest difficulty—while impersonating Tess former flame Connor sweeps in via email attempts to re ignite in Tess the love they once shared and Leila is so uickly taken by his charm unwarranted given the lecherous dickwad that he is that she begins to see herself as being responsible for what he claims he feels for her “It was only through the e mail exchanges my words that he fell for her again It was me who had created that love Me” And spoiler alert when Leila reveals to Connor the truth that Tess has killed herself and it’s her he’s been corresponding with she immediately asks him out and is then put off by his very justifiable anger and revulsion As much of a cad as Connor is his reaction in this scene is believable and earned; it’s far easier to sympathize with him than with Leila who appears to have imbibed in her very own special blend of Kool Aid The sensation reading this part was gross and unnerving—deliberate I’m sure but unpleasant all the sameMore than just actions Leila’s dichotomous behaviour is further brought to light by her uneven tone and diction At times Leila feels her young still impressionable age However her language and internal monologue are freuently erudite in ways that feel not necessarily mature for her age she’s not but manicured by well a novelist’s hands turning her into an unrealistically objective and well spoken ideal that is at odds with her presentation as someone almost completely detached from reality and the impact her decisions have hadwill have on othersMoggach’s writing is straight and narrow; there’s little colour and emotion in Leila’s world save anger from Connor and Tess’s mother and the discomfort that comes from as a reader waiting for this rickety house of lies to cave in on itself The novel is a uick read but does little to paint the world with anything but flat huesYet it’s difficult to criticize the novel for this because as previously mentioned it’s Leila who guides us through this world Leila who is flat and grey and missing that extra little bit of humanity that tells her how to read people’s emotions and tailor her reactions accordingly It’s Leila who is uncertain how to trust how to socialize how to express interest in another person as herself and not through the skin and experience of an avatar—even if said avatar was once a real life flesh and blood person Her gamification of the world is unpleasant but necessary for the character—someone whose imagination is limited by her already enclosed often difficult emotional journeyThe growth Leila does experience comes not from gaining a better understanding of the world or even who she is and whether or not what she’s done is on some level right or completely deplorably wrong but from learning that it is possible to trust people and that forgiveness is not given but earned—and sometimes it is altogether impossible The ambiguity that ends the novel is its strongest element because the details of Tess’s death or disappearance do not matter nor does it matter that Leila does not receive the emotional closure she desires What matters is that when all is cleared away Leila has not necessarily done what she feels is right but what she knows objectively to be right and in doing so by attempting to mend gulfs she herself has either created or exaggerated she has earned both her freedom and Tess’sMy experience with Kiss Me First was noticeably uneven The novel is a perfect example of something being interesting than it is enjoyable; while the story itself was compelling and kept me turning pages until the very end the detestable nature of almost every character save for Annie the kindly woman from Connecticut Leila meets while following Tess’s cold trail did its best to keep me from ever wanting to get too close to the narrative preferring to view its outcome from a place of emotional reserve

  3. Blair Blair says:

    TOO HOT TO WRITE PROPER REVIEWS But I have to write something down about this book because I loved it and if I wait much longer I'm going to forget everything I enjoyed about itLeila is a young woman in her early twenties who has led something of a sheltered life devoted to caring for her beloved mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis Shortly after the two of them buy a rather disgusting and run down flat as an investment for Leila's future her mother passes away and Leila retreats into an isolated and self contained existence with most of her time spent online At first she works from home testing software and plays games but a remark from an internet acuaintance leads her to join an elite forum called Red Pill Drawn into the philosophical debates constantly carried out by its members Leila begins abandoning her other responsibilities and devoting all her time to posting there particularly when she is singled out by the site's charismatic leader Adrian for special praise It's shortly after this that Adrian asks Leila to help him with a secret project one that will reuire her to imitate a complete stranger Tess online Tess is everything both good and bad that Leila is not outspoken sexy popular scatty unreliable and fickle with countless friends and life experience than Leila has ever dreamed of But there are sinister reasons behind the scheme and that explains why the story opens with Leila searching for evidence of Tess in a Spanish commune trying to determine whether she is still aliveI'd heard uite a bit of buzz about this book but I wasn't that bothered about reading it until I happened across an interview with the author In the interview Moggach stated that her main inspiration was Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller one of my favourite books and that it was Heller's novel that made her realise her main character didn't have to be likeable This made my ears prick up not just because I generally enjoy books with supposedly unlikeable female protagonists but because my response to Heller's creation Barbara Covett was different to that of many readers while I'm not saying I actually liked Barbara exactly I related to numerous aspects of the character and I wondered immediately whether I would feel the same about Moggach's anti?heroine Mainstream media reviews of the book have mostly been negative about Leila I read one in a broadsheet newspaper that described her as a 'weirdo' and another dismissed the whole story as boring because the character herself is so 'dull' I suspect though I might be wrong that online reviews from readers will probably be kinder As much as I didn't really relate to Leila and her narrative didn't provide a great deal of deep insights I still felt the book was drawing the reader towards the uestion of whether they're of a Leila or a TessInterestingly none of the things that have been touted as the main strengths of this book are the things I liked or found most appealing about it The plot does I suppose make some interesting points about how someone can conceal their identity online and how technology has changed the ways people interact and relate to one another But if you are a person of the internet and are au fait with various forms of social media and online representationspersonalities'lives' this isn't going to be anything you haven't thought about and discussed a hundred times before in detail Meanwhile the light touch of Moggach's narrative the thing that makes it so compulsively readable but might also lead some readers to dismiss it as trashy is actually one of the cleverest things about it Thrillers that aspire to be books of ideas often fall down at the ideas part since the concepts they discuss are usually limited and juvenile In Kiss Me First however the lack of real philosophical discussion actually works to the book's advantage as it serves to highlight how easy it would be for someone like Adrian to flatter his targets' egos and make them believe they alone were the insightful deep thinking contributors he was searching for Overall I was mainly interested in this novel as a character study in that sense it could indeed be compared to Notes on a Scandal and a number of other books I've loved with unreliable unscrupulous morally dubious and often delusional female narrators Jenn Ashworth's A Kind of Intimacy a particularly apt comparison since Ashworth's Annie has the same naivety and inability to properly understand relationships as Leila; Anna Raverat's Signs of Life; Jane Harris's Gillespie and I; Susanna Jones's whole oeuvre These books do not necessarily have much in common in the way of plot or setting but their blithe yet cunning voices and their vivid creation of complex protagonists who twist and turn as they tell a story that may or may not be wholly true lend them a similar appealI should also say that my five star rating isn't a 'this is a literary masterpiece' five stars it's like a 'I just really really enjoyed this' five stars I didn't think it was a truly brilliant book but I would still recommend it because it was so enjoyable and fascinating as well as being a perfect fit for the type of thing I typically love For the record a couple of uibbles I had with the plot view spoilerthe biggest issue was that I honestly couldn't see Tess ever going through with this method of suicide she was far too overdramatic and unpredictable and was surely much likely to do something publicly as a cry for help or spontaneously decide to do it during one of her depressed periods or at least leave lengthy notes and explanations for her friends and family Another problem though one I was less certain of was that of Leila's naivety she had led a sheltered and uneventful life but she'd hardly been locked away from the world and surely she would have picked up basic nuances of collouial speech something she seemed to have so much trouble interpreting in Tess's emails just from TV and the internet and from going to school and working in a cafe? The amount of things she didn't understand didn't uite ring true but not to such an extent that it stopped me from believing in the story hide spoiler

  4. B.reader B.reader says:

    Really really liked the idea and the first 810ths of this book I love the idea of unreliable narrators and this narrator was pitch perfect As a reader I didn't like her but I was interested in her which I find a necessity when the protagonist is pretty much unlikeable I think that the idea of getting sucked in to someone else's life via the internet is plausible and all too real and most of the book I found absolutely chillingHowever the ending almost completely ruined the book for me No real spoilers here just that the story kind ofended I think that the ending was too pat and tied up for me I think that if you're going to write a story with so many obviously unbalanced people your readers are going to feel cheated without some type of big ending I just put the book down and was like well whatever It almost felt like the author either ran out of steam or wanted to take the story in a completely different direction than the rest of the book

  5. Dee Arr Dee Arr says:

    It would be impossible to go into great detail about this book or even try to explain why I liked it so much without revealing major aspects of the story It is better perhaps if I offer reasons why you should read itThe story crackles with a low tension seething underneath You know sooner or later sometimes going to come undone and release that tension in all its ferocity You just don’t know whenIt’s been a long time since I read a book that takes place over a short period of time months yet it is possible to see the major changes in a character’s personality Author Lottie Moggath excels in this area allowing the character Leila to reveal herself completely Much of the layer peeling is done so masterfully that it might be possible to miss Whenever I spotted these clues I was reminded of watching horror movies when you know the heroine would be safe but for some reason she always does what you know she shouldn’t The plot itself is a mosaic of different elements all known to us due to past events in our lives It is the fusing of these familiar elements into something new that transforms Ms Moggath’s book into a compelling readAnd just to be fair this book is not a thriller or heavy with suspense though the suspense of not knowing or trying to guess where the story is going is present Some people may not like the characters but I thought building the characters of Leila and Tess was important than whether I liked them or not I preferred to appreciate what the author accomplished This is a book that will force you to think and maybe not in directions you would not willingly travel and is not for those seeking a shot of adrenalineBottom line Excellent plot that twists and grows into something new coupled with a strong characterization of Leila which propels the book While this is not an actionadventurethriller novel the strength of the writing is powerful Once near the end we are left with no choice but to continue reading as the climax rushes toward us Five stars

  6. Michael Michael says:

    Imagine this You are approached by someone you trust to take on the identity of a person who is going to take their own life This is the moral dilemma that Leila faces She prefers deep intellectual conversations and after the death of her parents thinks she has found a home in the website Red Pill This is a place that encourages intelligent discussions and after establishing herself makes her way into the inner circleIt is there she is propositioned by the sites administrator Adrian As someone who fully believes in the right to die Leila will jump at the responsibility With the help of the person who is going to take her own life Tess Leila gathers everything she can to convince her loved ones and friends she is still alive and having the time of her life abroad Little does she know how her plans can fall apart When they do it is in the most surprising way imaginableThis has to be for me the most ethically charged book I have ever read No matter what side of the fence you sit on with the thorny subject of mortality and our right to be master of it you will find yourself conflicted I am a self confessed believer in the principle of self ownership of our bodies and although I don't feel differently this book did make me think The beauty of this book is it is the things we don't know with Tess and Adrian that make it so satisfying Would you do what Leila did? I would like to say I would but after reading this enthralling book I am not so sure

  7. Anne Anne says:

    Every so often a book comes along that hooks you from the very first page This one was an extremely accomplished first novel that I read in one enjoyable sitting mesmerised by the turns and twists in the story and absolute fascination with the character of Leila “Unputdownable” is an overused expression – but this book really isLeila is the narrator telling the story after it happened She is a solitary individual having worked from home in IT testing while looking after her dying mother Left alone she begins to live her life on line first through Warcraft and then by discovering the Red Pill website where she engages in philosophical debate and becomes a trusted member When approached by the site’s founder – the charismatic Adrian – she agrees to assume the on line presence of Tess a manic depressive who wants to commit suicide without hurting her family or friends We watch with fascination as she learns every detail about Tess’ life leading up to the day Tess disappears and the game really starts This is a fascinating and absorbing story that made me feel really uncomfortable on a number of occasions – there’s a real feeling of “this could really happen” about the whole story with the way in which we all live our lives on line these days And it’s perfectly written – Leila has an unworldly naivety and innocence which makes her endearing with her awkward attempts at social interaction and the precision with which she takes on her taskI must mention the wonderful Facebook trailer produced to accompany the book – you need to be logged on to Facebook to access it and it uses your personal details to produce a very unsettling experience Nothing will be posted on your Facebook profile and your details won’t be shared I’m dying to see what Lottie Moggach comes up with next

  8. Heather Heather says:

    I'm not really sure how to rate this book mostly because I know people will instantly judge me for hating it I'll start off by saying I went into this book knowing that the author had intentionally made the main character unlikeable And that's not what I hated Not at all To be honest having Leila unlikeable would have made this book very interesting BUT none of the other characters were likeable either Tess was a party animal who lived too much and although we can all relate to her on a small level there are very few who can relate to her on a larger scale She's in a few words slutty irresponsible an addict and a hoarder She also is extremely popular for some reason and hates her parents even though they were the only ones willing to investigate after she left Connor is a horrible human as well Annie and Milo were decent characters but we hardly had any interaction with them to really form a relationship And all of the other characters are either insignificant or horrible people as well The plot was slow moving The book has been described as chilling and intense but I would describe it as depressing and slow Most of the plot is Leila sitting on her computer communicating to Tess's friends or her wondering about something that most people on the planet have a vast understanding about or her walking around a commune trying to find clues which there are hardly any What upsets me the most is that this book had so much potential and it just flopped Midway through I wanted to uit And when I finally made it to the last chapter I had thought of five different intense ways the book could have ended But it just kind of ended with hardly any conclusion I do not recommend unless you have A LOT of free time

  9. Alia Alia says:

    KISS ME FIRST is so accomplished and affecting it's hard to believe it's a debut Most simply put it's a literary thriller about a suicide cult and identity theft which makes this book sound rather cheesy a gimmick propelled by cyberparanoia It's not and I say this as someone whose eyes glaze over at the mention of cyberpunk At the center of the story is a deliciously unreliable narrator named Leila a loner who spends a lot time online Moggach is too sophisticated of a writer to give her characters diagnoses but one of the things I love about this book is how she makes Leila weird in ways that seem both uite believable and completely uniue She's the odd kid in every class photo the undiagnosed Aspie cousin And even though Leila is up to something appalling Lottie Moggach's gift is making Leila's decisions understandable and ultimately heartbreaking That I think is KISS ME FIRST's greatest accomplishment it manages to be an ideas driven thriller in the vein of William Gibson or even Michel Houellebec yet it has surprising heart It's particularly thrilling that this is Moggach's first book I think she's a Gillian Flynn level talent particularly in terms of her eye for social detail and deep yet effortless characterization I can't wait to read what she comes up with next

  10. Lis Lis says:

    What an interesting new writer I will read whatever she writes next This book's plot is unusual the narratormain character is an intelligent but naive and socially isolated misfit Leila who is persuaded to assist a psychopath who runs a suicide assistance cult by pretending to be the online persona of Tess who he is persuading to commit suicide in order to create the illusion that Tess is still alive after her death I really enjoyed the unfolding of Leila's character and how the story evolves The author gives Leila a uite convincing voice and the book was a pleasure from beginning to end uite suspensful given that there is not a lot of actionI didn't find the goodreads blurb about the book very helpful and I found several of the reviews unhelpful as well It's clear that not everyone liked Leila as much as I did Some found her impossible to like not my feeling So be itI was interested to see from one of the reviews that the author Lottie Moggach is the daughter of Deborah Moggach who wrote The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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