We’ve all seen or heard those commercials warning us about predators just waiting and luring on-line to steal our identity.
But what if instead of stealing your identity, you wanted someone else to assume your identity to protect your family and friends from the truth that you’d decided to shuffle off this mortal coil?
That’s the premise of Lottie Moggach’s fascinating novel Kiss Me First. An avid World of Warcraft fan, Leila is used to the idea of on-line role playing. After discovering the philosophical discussion forum The Red Pill (referencing The Matrix trilogy), Leila begins to make a name of herself in the on-line community and is approached by its mysterious founder and podcaster with an opportunity. Leila will assume the on-line identity of Tess, a young woman who wants to take her own life but doesn’t want to cause her family or friends any pain or suffering. Leila’s task is to study Tess in every detail and then assume her identity on-line — Facebook, e-mails and other social networking connections — all while Tess removes herself from the world. The idea is that Tess will move far away and Leila will provide status updates and responses to friends and family to help put their mind at ease that Tess is alive and well.
Leila accepts and spends several months trying to get to know all about Tess. Then, Tess decides it’s time to go and Leila steps into the role of playing Tess.
All goes well for a while, until a romantic entanglement from the past resurfaces — one that Tess didn’t give Leila many details about. As Leila and the long-lost boyfriend connect, Leila slowly begins to take more and more chances in connecting with members of Tess’ life, leading to some fascinating consequences.
As a page turning thriller, Kiss Me First delivers in spades. The chapters are divided between Leila’s search for where Tess really went and the truth behind her disappearance and flashbacks to Leila’s work to assume Tess’ on-line identity. Questions of just how well we can really know someone we only interact with on-line abound and in the light of the reality series Catfish and the real-world situation with former Notre Dame player Manti Te’o last year, there are some fascinating questions raised and implications pondered.
My one grip is that while the novel explains the title and its significance, the cover art isn’t fully explained or justified by the novel. With this novel and The Shining Girls hitting the market and my shelf this summer, I couldn’t help but wonder if having flies on the cover of your novel is the latest trend in publishing.