PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Books

'The Kissing List' Wanders Through Early Adulthood

This is a compelling concept, but it would have benefited from a more meaningful examination of how it feels to be 20-something.


The Kissing List

Publisher: Hogarth
Length: 223 pages
Author: Stephanie Reents
Price: $22.00
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2012-05
Amazon

Stephanie Reents’s The Kissing List is billed as “a bold, inventive, and witty debut about navigating love and life in your twenties... we watch Sylvie, Anna, Frances, and Maureen as they try to maneuver that frightening yet thrilling decade in life when just about anything seems possible.” This is a promising, compelling idea that warrants attention and is reminiscent of MTV’s The Real World, in which the experiences of diverse young people with varying ideals and aspirations are explored.

In its early seasons, The Real World followed 20-somethings as they struggled to establish occupations, relationships, and personal identities while tackling serious issues including racism, AIDS, religion, and homosexuality. For several years, The Real World succeeded at documenting—in an intelligent and sensitive manner—young adults’ conflicts, disappointments, triumphs and tragedies. But the series eventually deteriorated into a Jersey Shore -style display of superficiality that does not accurately mirror the complex experience of those who have just stepped into adulthood.

This tricky stage of life is filled with potential material for a work of fiction: finding independence, building careers, breaking away from parents, and looking for love. In The Kissing List, Reents delves into all of these issues and occasionally reaches an emotional depth that reflects the often-painful transition into the adult world. Portions of the book are as effective as the first seasons of The Real World; however, the rest is similar to the program’s downfall.

The Kissing List is a collection of “interlocking stories” about several young women who have recently graduated from college. The most sympathetic of these characters is Vita, who “graduated summa and won a slew of awards from the history department,” decided not to attend graduate school, and currently dwells in the purgatory of temp work in New York City while enduring her parents’ disappointment. “Now do you regret not taking typing back in high school?” her mother says. “Everyone should be able to fall back on typing when they decide to waste their college education.” Later, when Vita’s boss tells her that she is a “good worker”, she doesn’t know if she should mourn her lost ambitions or just appreciate gainful employment. The harsh reality of being an adult has hit her, and she is unsure “whether to wilt or blossom.”

The Kissing List’s strength is moments of this sort, which are written in lovely prose and feel authentic and emotional. But the book’s weaknesses are the rarity of these moments and undeveloped characters with hidden motivations. Sylvie, for example, constantly describes kissing in a rambling and immature way, and she inanely repeats phrases such as “a kiss is a kiss is a kiss is a kiss.” Like a vapid seventh grader playing spin-the-bottle, she flits from one partner to another, but her reasons for doing so are kept secret. She has intimate contact with women, yet her feelings about her sexuality and the evolution of it are never addressed. Important issues are ignored, Sylvie is distant and muted, she and most of the main characters feel like strangers who engage in shallow romantic hookups of the more recent The Real World variety, and it is quite difficult to sympathize with them.

The greatest weakness in The Kissing List is its structure. The book could have been much stronger had it been written in traditional novel format with a distinct plot and consistent narration. But its vignettes are less powerful because their connection to each other is murky, and many of the stories read as a meandering stream of consciousness. The point of view alternates among characters, changes from first person to third person, and is sometimes so vague that its perspective is hard to determine.

The concept of the The Kissing List is an interesting one and its individual stories sometimes reach their marks, but the book would have benefited from a single, accessible narrator and a more meaningful examination of early adulthood.

5

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.