After the Kiss
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Reading Level: Young Adult
Becca has been head-over-heels for Alec from the instant they met. He's a brainy jock with a poet's heart—in other words, perfect for her.
Camille is careful with her words and protective of her heart, especially since Chicago. Then a new boy in her new town catches her off guard with a surprise kiss.
"This is an extraordinary novel about letting go and holding on that you won't easily forget." — The Compulsive Reader
Too bad that new boy is Becca's boyfriend, Alec.
Camille and Becca have never met, but their lives will unravel and intertwine in surprising ways as they deal with what happens after the kiss.
After I finished the final proofs of Pure, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to work on next. So I went to my trusty editor, and she had some ideas in mind for me. One of the most intriguing things she suggested was a novel in verse, which I hadn't actually considered before. We talked about some other ideas too, including love triangles, and about half an hour after that I was sitting there working on some decoupage, and suddenly I started to get this idea of a love triangle story where the three characters involved spoke in three different types of poetry. I jumped up, started writing down some thoughts and ideas, and After the Kiss was born!
Writing a novel in verse was really tricky though. My actual writing background started in poetry, and I studied it fairly seriously in college. I revere poets like T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Charles Simic—poets who have this amazing command of image and language—and at first I was striving to make every poem in After the Kiss something similar. But then I realized I was going to have to let go of some of my expectations, because this was a novel, and I had to make things happen. There had to be action and dialogue and forward movement, not just a bunch of well-wrought images and emotions. So that was a little bit tricky at first, but eventually I got the hang of it, and it turned into a lot of fun.
"… the imagery is often startling with an originality that exhales into a perfect aptness for the experience." — starred review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
One part of the fun came from flipping through my giant, underlined, broken-in Norton's Anthology of Modern Poetry and other poets' books to find things that Becca would mimic in her own work. One thing you get told a lot as a beginning writer is, “The best way to learn about writing is to find a writer you like, and emulate their work.” And I thought that was advice that Becca, being a serious writer, would take seriously. So, all of the poems that have “(with apologies to…)” after the title are Becca's interpretations of actual poems by real people. I hope that some inquisitive readers may try to track some of those down!
Besides getting to really share and exercise my deep love for poetry, writing After the Kiss was also important to me because of the situation between all three characters. I feel like we are so quick to judge people and their relationships, to make assumptions about what's going on in them, especially if there's any cheating. But the truth is, in those situations, there are three different people involved, and all three of them have their own feelings about what's happening. All three of them contribute to the situation in different ways, and all three of them are affected in ways we don't understand from the outside. (Sometimes the people involved don't know or understand everything, either.) Human relationships are incredibly complex, and I wanted to really explore that in a way that was really honest.
I'll be looking forward to seeing what you think about how I managed all of that, and how you feel it compares to Pure!
Here are some discussion questions to get your After the Kiss conversation going…
- When you started reading the book, which of the two girls did you like best? Did that opinion change by the time you got to the end? Why or why not?
- At the beginning of the book, Becca's whole world revolves around Alec. What is it about him (and the rest of her life) that makes this so?
- Alec, like Becca, writes poetry too, but he is afraid to show it. Do you think it would be easier or harder for him if he wasn't always trying to hide this part of his personality?
- Why do you think Alec talks to Camille at the bonfire in the first place, and why do you think he kisses her? Do you think he was justified in doing so?
- If you were Becca, and Freya had showed you a picture of that kiss, what would you do? Do you think Becca should have stayed with Alec instead?
- Becca and Camille don't know each other, but they know of each other. How do their impressions of one another change during the course of the book? What does that say to you about them and their own changes?
- What do you think about what Becca discovers about Nadia? Is Nadia right, that the situation is more complex than Becca comprehends? Or is Becca right, that there really is right and wrong?
- Becca and Camille both learn a lot about friendship in the course of After the Kiss. What are some of the lessons that stand out to you the most?
- Which of Becca's “with apologies to…” poems was your favorite?
- There are a lot of things left open at the end of After the Kiss. What do you think happens to Alec in his future? To Becca? To Camille?
"[McVoy] crafts a complex tale about two girls who are complete strangers with a single event linking them. A complicated, tenuous relationship forms as a result, and it never feels forced or unrealistic." — Early Nerd Special
"… McVoy's prose is confident and adventurous … A fresh, observant story." — Publishers Weekly