McVoy's (Pure) roots are showing--in a good way. A love of language, literature, and the city of Atlanta, where she lives, pervades her sophomore novel, a thoughtfully wrought coming-of-age story. Camille, whose second-person narrative is light on punctuation and heavy on metaphor, has moved all over the country with her parents and is starting her final semester of high school in Atlanta. She tries to avoid creating attachments, but is having trouble getting over a boy in Chicago. Another senior, Becca, who tells her story in free verse, lives for her jock/poet boyfriend, Alec. Camille connects with and then kisses Alec at a party, unaware that he has a girlfriend. The aftershock of the kiss affects both girls, but this rich story also encompasses their struggles with family and friends, as well as their respective journeys of self-discovery. McVoy's prose is confident and adventurous-- some of Becca's poems are styled after her favorite poets ("The only empress is the empress of gossip magazines")--and while not every stylistic gambit pays off, on the whole it's a fresh, observant story. Ages 14-up. (May)
From the Publisher
"The girls have distinct, believable voices [in After the Kiss]. A poignant tale of two girls on the brink of adulthood faced with real decisions about their future, who they want to be, and what role boys will play in their decisions." School Library Journal
* "The poetry is richly allusive, with particular entries smartly and self-consciously modeled on poems by Pablo Neruda, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens among others, and the imagery is often startling with an originality that exhales into a perfect aptness for the experience. This is more than simply a language-lover’s edition of traditional chick-lit fare, however; the back-and-forth interplay of perspectives calibrates the delicate edge between the poignant yearning for intimacy and the psychic need for separation, as Becca grows beyond a need to hold on to a love truly lost, and Camille lets go of the fear that’s driving her away from a love that might have a chance." The Bulletin, starred review
"Vivid." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"A love of language, literature, and the city of Atlanta, where [McVoy] lives, pervades her sophomore novel, a thoughtfully wrought coming-of-age story....McVoy's prose is confident and adventurous....A fresh, observant story."
Children's Literature - Amy McMillan
Camille and Becca are in their senior years of high school, trying to figure out their places in the world and where to head next. Camille has moved around a lot and is now settled in Atlanta but is determined not to get too close to anyone and is pining away for a boy she left in Chicago. She is counting down the days until school is over and she can escape on her own terms. Becca has a great life filled with school, friends, and a fabulous boyfriend with whom she plans to attend college. When Becca wrecks her car and is forced to get a job at a local coffee shop, the girls'paths cross. While they stay relatively unaware of each other their lives are inextricably intertwined as they each become involved with the same boy. The girls tell their own stories in alternating chapters, one in verse form, the other in stream of consciousness style prose. This book is a quick, light read full of realistic situations that will appeal to most girls. It shows teens dealing positively with their problems and finding believable solutions. Reviewer: Amy McMillan
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Midway through senior year, Camille moves to Atlanta (her family's sixth move). She plans to simply go through the motions until she can escape to Europe after graduation. Meanwhile, at another school in town, Becca is jolted from the dreamlike state of her relationship with Alec when she gets in a fender bender and must find an after-school job to pay back her debt. The girls' lives collide when Camille meets Alec at a party, and, unaware that he is "taken," allows the haiku-spouting-but-athletic catcher to kiss her. At first blush, such a story line has the potential to play up every teen "mean girls" stereotype, yet McVoy elevates the narrative well above any predictable cat fight. Camille tells her side in stream-of-consciousness entries, while Becca speaks in free verse. The girls have distinct, believable voices, and the way in which they slowly become aware of one another rather than facing a direct confrontation shows that given different circumstances they might have been kindred spirits. Literary references and odes to famous poets pepper the pages. These are unobtrusive so that discerning readers will revel in their inclusion while others will skip over them but still enjoy the drama of the story. The result is a poignant tale of two girls on the brink of adulthood faced with real decisions about their future, who they want to be, and what role boys will play in their decisions.—Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT
Camille is new to Atlanta, Ga. Becca, on the other hand, has lived there her entire life. The two girls don't know each other and have nothing in common save for a haiku-writing baseball player, Alec. Alec is Becca's longtime boyfriend, but since Becca had to take a job at a coffeehouse, they've started growing apart. Alec kisses Camille at a party, accelerating his breakup with Becca. Camille is still fragile from a pre-Atlanta relationship, so she and Alec never quite get off the ground as a couple. The kiss itself, though marketed as the most important event in the book, is only one of many incidents that force both Becca and Camille out of their own minds and into their lives. Speaking in a second-person stream-of-consciousness narration, Camille is hard to get to know; there are often a lot of excess words to wade through before getting to the meat of her ideas. Becca speaks in verse, sometimes free, sometimes parodying famous poems. Her observations are occasionally sublime but sometimes nonsensical. Cheers to the formal experimentation, but it doesn't quite succeed. (Fiction. YA)
Read an Excerpt
new house #6
pulling in the driveway all you can think is that this is the kind of house they were trying to duplicate back in charlotte: the real southern living deal—a big beautiful old (but newly renovated) house in an area they are calling the virginia highlands, with no hills to be seen and two states separated from virginia. there are brick-based columns across the wide front porch and a real swing and deep white rockers next to huge pots—vats really—full of what you are sure will be hydrangeas come springtime. it’s so stereotypical south (and so very, very far from the noisy cold of chicago) that you want to laugh, but inside the floors are real, dark, smooth, polished aged wood—not parquet like in dc or tile like in houston—and the rugs are just as lush as in the sf penthouse. there are no long hallways to slide down in your socks like the chicago apartment, but rooms leading onto rooms opening into other rooms like a russian treasure box or an alice in wonderland maze. you cannot believe how much space there is here: wide-wide everything so wide. how your dad’s company finds these places and what they pay for you to live in them you still can’t get dad to answer, but you are grateful and astonished every time. this will never be your real home, but it (like the last one, and the one before that) is certainly beautiful, and you know your new friends will (like always) be jealous of where you live, can already hear them (whoever they are) saying i wish i could be you in that gushing-awed way that leaves you cold, because no one ever wants the thrown-around rag doll with the threadbare smile. no one wants to be a girl who’s picked out her own embroidered heart, string by string, and left it for the birds to tangle in their nests.
new homeroom #5
the eyes have it. seventeen pairs of them already turning as you come through the door. you could be argus great defender of juno with all the eyes you have, the eyes you’ve collected from all these new homerooms, these new schools, these new doorways you’re always having to step through. you always wonder what you really look like to them, wonder what it would be to see out of all those different eyeballs ogling—green hazel blue brown brown flecked green—to get a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of yourself: forever always repeating only the surface and never having to look further in.
new french teacher #3
is a man this time which interests you because usually they are the same type of used-up–looking woman: a woman in a floral-print skirt with espadrilles or else dansko sandals, with pale skin that is smooth and soft-looking but also thinning and with its own share of wrinkles (sometimes about the eyes, sometimes about the mouth, always the furrow between the brows), blue eyes usually and long or short hair it doesn’t matter it is always dark and shot with gray. (and if she is blond, she doesn’t have fun.) but no today you walk in (the eyes all upon you) and you are bonjoured to your seat by a (blue-eyed, dark-haired, bearded) monsieur. tall and smiling (with wrinkling hands and pink but thinning cheeks) in his floral tie, he welcomes you with a nod and asks en francaise how comfortable are you with the language and when you answer back with your prepared little speech about reading camus in the original french this summer on your own for fun you see the same little glance of delight you always get with teachers: like a boy with a marzipan frog that has just leaped to life.
the sunshine girl
new-school day so far pretty smooth. there have been plenty of curious stares but no one’s snickered or snubbed, which you take as a good sign. two seconds into your third period though and the bright blonde in front of you whips around, sticks out her hand like a company CEO and chirps, hey i’m ellen. this class is awesome. there’s a waiting list so it’s amazing you got in. you’re going to love it. you hear yourself tell her your name is camille, you just moved from chicago, and then there’s something in the way she’s said it—something in her bright frankness—that just by looking at her yachting good looks and her hemp-bead bracelets you know that she’s right—that you will love this class, and not just because it’s about mid-twentieth-century literature. by the time the teacher starts, you have programmed each other’s numbers. by the time class is over, she has her arm linked in yours and is showing you the best shortcut, explaining what to expect from the rest of your schedule, saying it’s weird you’re the new girl in their final semester, but that everyone will love you. that you’re going to have fun. by the time the day is over, you have plans for the weekend, and—somehow—with nothing like the herculean efforts required in chicago, the role of atlanta bff is—just like that—filled.
on being the new girl: atlanta rules
it’s not a bad thing that mom aims for smarts, beauty, and popularity in you. be glad for private school and advanced classes and intelligent teachers and the lack of neanderthalism in general. volunteer after school like last time. keep up the appearance, too. as was the case in sf and chicago, being good-looking still makes everyone want to know who you are, which means, at least, you don’t have to eat by yourself, and you have something to do on weekends.
interchangeable friends: from chicago to atlanta
bff roxy becomes bff ellen. paula and gregor become jessica and flip. mrs. haskell is mrs. capriola and mr. fenway is ms. clary, for sure. betsy is autumn and olive is now connor. there’s a gracen to avoid instead of a stephanie to sidestep, but also look out for bryce and her flock of straight-hairs. dorie and willow are eager to include you just like molly and lucy. sam-paul-jordan-ted in photography class are just like whatever-their-names-were—football guys, enough said. and though it’s not like you’re looking, he-who-shall-not-be-named is still neither duplicated nor replaced, because there will never (you are certain you will make sure of it) be somebody like him again.
© 2010 Terra Elan McVoy