Buy I Kissed Alice
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Reviewer: Melissa on July 31, 2020
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Have you ever read an enemies to lovers romance in which you’re not completely sure whether the characters hate each other or are just completely obsessed with one another? Before I read I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch and illustrated by Victoria Ying, which felt like this from page one, I think the only other book I’ve read that easily fits into this characterization is The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.
However, unlike The Hating Game, I Kissed Alice is a contemporary YA rom com with two lead LGBTQIA+ heroines. It has illustrated web comic panels interspersed throughout the prose. It’s a book rife with fan fiction writing and references to geek culture, a focus on art, Alice in Wonderland, and female relationships of all sorts—platonic and romantic.
Granted, some of the female friendships are on the toxic side, and Anna Birch’s novel doesn’t shy away form this issue because she doesn’t shy away from depicting the flaws of her characters. And yes, her characters have many flaws, but personally, I thought that this made them all the more real. Birch gives each of the characters room to set the record straight and apologize for all the things they’ve done. Whether or not the characters choose to make an apology or those who were wronged choose to accept it is anybody’s guess. I do, however, understand the decisions that the characters made and was able to get past those that were a little less than honourable because of this understanding.
The cute, illustrated cover and the promise of LGBTQIA+ characters first drew me to I Kissed Alice, and Birch didn’t let me down on either account. Beyond the cover, readers get an inside look at the new web comic instalments on which Rhodes and Iliana are unknowingly collaborating via Slash/Spot, an online community for fan fiction with an LGBTQIA+ focus. Imagine if Alice in Wonderland was set in space and the MC was in love with the Red Queen, and you’ll get an idea about what their collab is like. Keep in mind that there aren’t as many new entries into the web comic as I expected, and in fact, there are approximately 49 instalments from before the novel begins that are alluded to, but never presented to readers, so if you’re here specifically for them, you may be disappointed. However, the author does give both Rhodes and Iliana enough Lewis Carroll knowledge to make their secret fascination with this world believable.
Beyond the romance and friendships, I Kissed Alice does a great job of exploring what it means for artists to both struggle with and grow in their craft. It details the competitive nature that a school like the prestigious conservatory that Iliana, Rhodes, Sarah, Kiersten, and Griffin all attend, and how even small set backs can dampen the progress one can have, or may even cause artists, dancers, etc to regress to a stat where they regularly make mistakes from several years before. It also gives readers an insight into how artists see themselves against their strongest competitor, for better or worse, as well as how opportunities are easier to get for those who can afford them or who have their parents’ money to fall back on, whether they realize it or not.
I particularly loved the integration of DMs from Slash/Spot, comments on Alice and Cheshire’s comic, the text messages and updates on how long it has been since they’ve either logged into Slash/Spot or until the deadlines for the award competition. In particular, there is a popcorn emoji reference that had me recognizing just how perfectly well Birch understands the medium she’s using to convey her story. Not everyone does.
If I had to detail any cons, then it would be the disappointment I had in a couple references. While there are a lot of geek culture references from different fandoms—some of which I knew and some of which I didn’t—I was totally on board with most of their inclusions. I was, however, greatly disappointed in the few Harry Potter references that made it onto the page since I read it since J.K. Rowling decided to double and triple down on transphobic statements. Since it’s common for transgender people to experience transphobia from within, as well as without, the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole. Keep in mind that there are only a couple references in the whole book, but I would be remiss to ignore them here because of the harm that I know JKR has caused many people.
If I Kissed Alice sounds intriguing, then check it out! It’s available in stores and online, wherever you buy books, this week.
Buy I Kissed Alice today for a great price!