WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
For fans of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and Fangirl, I Kissed Alice is a romantic comedy about enemies, lovers, and everything in between.
Rhodes and Iliana couldn’t be more different, but that’s not why they hate each other.
Hyper-gifted artist Rhodes has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts despite a secret bout of creator’s block, while transfer student Iliana tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.
They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a graphic novel. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other…a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?
MY THOUGHTS (spoiler-free):
Note: I received an Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I was super-hyped for this book, because I love the enemies-to-lovers trope, I love the pen pal trope, and I was really in the mood for a fun F/F rom-com.
And that’s where it went wrong.
Because, despite the description in the very first sentence of the synopsis, I Kissed Alice is not a romantic comedy. And my completely wrong expectations are basically why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would.
First of all, I Kissed Alice is not a fun, light-hearted comedy. I did not laugh once. Nor giggled. Nor smiled, really. In fact, this is a quite heavy book with messy, deeply flawed and unlikeable characters. Iliana and Rhodes are AWFUL, not only to each other, but also to their shared friend Sarah. But hey, Sarah is actually a pretty awful person too. There was just too much awfulness, and while I really appreciate that the writing took this real, raw and messy route, it wasn’t what I expected, wanted or needed and as such it really brought down my enjoyment of the story.
I do usually like enemies-to-lovers. But this was more enemies than lovers.
Which brings me to the second part of the term ‘romantic comedy.’ I did not think this story was romantic. Like I said, the enemies-to-lovers aspect was done with a very high focus on the enemies part. Not once in the book, unless maybe near the very end, did it ever feel like these two characters could maybe love each other, or have this great sexual tension in their scenes together. There is no banter that made me think ‘just shut up and kiss already’.
You could say that that all happens in the online part, since Rhodes and Iliana both have secret online identities as they work on an Alice in Wonderland webcomic together. This is the pen pal trope I like so much, people falling in love over conversations, bonding without even knowing what the other person looks like. But even that aspect of the story fell flat for me. You see, the falling in love with each other (online) pretty much already happened in the beginning of the book. We don’t see them bonding. We don’t see them falling in love. There’s really limited online conversations, and in a lot of them they are still mean to each other or ignoring each other. So unfortunately, this aspect of the story also did not convince me of the romance, or of the characters.
Though to be fair, the book still had some very positive aspects as well. I really liked the writing style. It was vivid and real and most of all, brave. It depicted the ugly side of people and the ugly side of friendships and family. There was talk about depression and anxiety and positive therapy representation. There is talk about class issues and privilege and I did like Rhodes’ journey as an artist. I actually really liked the view into an art school. And I liked Griffin, Rhodes’ supportive brother and probably the most (only) likeable character in the book.
And I really enjoyed the illustrations by Victoria Ying, which are spread throughout the book and depict scenes from the Alice in Wonderland web comic Rhodes and Iliana work on together as their secret online alter egos.
So while I had my issues with the characters and the romance aspect, those were mainly due to my incorrect expectations. Though it wasn’t what I wanted to read at the time, I can still appreciate the writing and the gritty aspect of the characters’ personalities. I just wanted a rom-com and I got something else entirely. Please don’t go into this thinking that it is a fun, light-hearted romantic comedy with likeable characters. If you can go into this book with the right expectations, I really do believe you’ll enjoy this more than I did.