For fans of Leah on the Offbeat and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, Anna Birch’s 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.
Rhodes, a gifted artist, has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts (until she’s hit with a secret bout of creator’s block), while Iliana, a transfer student, 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 webcomic. 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?
Title: I Kissed Alice
Author: Anna Birch
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
Genre: LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult
The therapy office parking lot looks more like a scene from a creepy video game—fog hangs in the trees, cutting off our line of vision to the busy I-85 below. It’s otherworldly, almost as if we could walk in any direction and plummet off the side of a cliff into the great wide nothing below.
Mom’s chemical-peeled skin is still red and swollen; she grimaces down the barrel of the green straw that sticks out from the clear cup in her hand. Wind rattles the thinning dogwood branches that ring the parking lot, and I pull my jacket tighter.
“So, Dusk told me you’re thinking about the Capstone Award after all,” she says, eyeing her reflection in the driver’s-side window. With a flick of a polished thumbnail, the car beeps twice and the doors all unlock at once. I start to cross over to the passenger side, but Mom hands me the keys. “You need the practice.”
I sigh and slide into the driver’s side instead.
Translation: I’m exhausted from my morning with the esthetician, and I’d like to sleep off the Bloody Mary that’s still in my system before we get back to your dad.
“I’m not doing the Capstone,” I say.
My position has only galvanized between Dusk’s office and Mom’s car: I would be selling my soul to the devil. I’m not ready to count it as my only option just yet.
“We all agreed that the Capstone Award was a part of your outcome goals.” Mom shoves a pair of oversize designer shades onto the bridge of her nose and then cringes. She fans her face with an old church bulletin off the floorboard. “I’ve got the document on my phone—”
“You can’t just stick your kid in therapy because she’s not doing what you want her to do.” I jam the keys into the ignition and start the engine. “That’s literally not even how therapy works.”
Merely surviving versus fully thriving . . . But only when it’s convenient to the adults in the room.
Mom reclines her seat as far back as it can go and fastens her seat belt.
I throw the car into drive and descend the hill through the fog, stopping to merge onto the frontage road. The traffic doesn’t re- lent—the fog is thick, and one car after the next flies up with their brights screaming through my rear window.
I have no option: I have to go forward. There’s no escaping, no turning right and finding a back road onto the interstate.
I’m stuck here, with no fewer than twenty cars behind me, and now they’re all starting to blare their horns, waiting for me to merge. Stuck. Always effing stuck.
“I’m just saying, you did wonderfully in the Ocoee Youth Arts Awards last year. It’s so good for your résumé, and this is your year for the Capstone Award—”
“No.” I breathe through the tightness in my chest. I’m going to pull out in front of one of these wild Atlanta drivers, and then we’re both going to die. “I need you to tell me what to do—”
“Just send something they haven’t seen yet. Surely you have some- thing—” She pulls her sunglasses down the bridge of her nose to peer up at me. “Send them drawing homework. They love you.”
All of the cars are honking now. All of them.
Thirty cars blaring their horns. To my left, the interstate is hem- orrhaging midsize sedans. “No, I mean, I need help pulling onto the road—”
“Ugh, Rhodes honey, just wait for a break and then gun it.”
“There are no breaks—”
“Sure there are. Just go.”
Around me, cars all cut each other off. They jump in front of each other, and honk at each other, and fly around each other with middle fingers waving out their driver’s-side windows.
With a deep breath, I throw us into traffic.
Behind me, a car swerves into the shoulder. The car behind them slams on their brakes, and I hear a telltale metallic crunch three cars back—nothing life-altering, by the sound of it. A second later, the drivers are out of their cars and arguing.
They’re fine by the looks of it, thank God.
“Go!” Mom says.
I rocket off toward the Alabama state line. I won’t stop shaking until long after I step out of the car.
“Just think about it,” Mom says, oblivious. “Win the Capstone, and the world is your oyster.”
Anna Birch is the author of I Kissed Alice. She was born ‘n’ raised in a rural area on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. She traded thick forests and dirt roads for the heart of the city, where she lives now with her husband, three children, and dog. She loves knitting, brie, and hanging out with her family.