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Kissing Emma

Written by Shappi Khorsandi

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Kissing Emma Review

Family / Home Stories Featured Books for Young Adults Gritty Reads Personal Social Health Economic (PSHE)

Powerful, poignant story of a young woman’s bumpy path to finding personal pride in a male-dominated world

Hard-hitting and, ultimately, infused with hope, Shappi Khorsandi’s Kissing Emma tackles big issues (poverty, class divisions, toxic masculinity, victim-blaming, and male coercion of women) with incredible honesty and authenticity. Inventively riffing on the true story of Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson's mistress, this tells the gripping story of a young women’s journey to self-determination in a society obsessed with looks and economic status.

Emma and her mum have long lived with her father’s abusive, controlling ways: “Sometimes he said to Mum, ‘Put some slap on, you look half-dead,’ so she’d do her face. But if she put on some lipstick and a bit of mascara without him telling her to, he’d scream, ‘You look like a tart!’ till she cried and took it off. No way of predicting it”. When he’s suddenly gone from their lives in extreme circumstances, Emma and Mum are forced to move into her grandmother’s small flat. There’s never enough money, and her mother hopes that attractive Emma will find a nice rich man to rescue them both, while Nan advises her to “Put less on show, love. Men can’t help themselves around a bit of flesh. You can’t dangle a lamb chop in front of a lion and expect it not to bite”. Amidst such poor advice, Emma discovers she has a talent for acting and resolves to up her aspirations, deciding, “I had to kill the girl from the estate. It was time to reinvent myself.” As a result, when Emma meets a couple of apparent nice guys from a modelling agency, she’s quickly coerced into an abusive situation while hoping to find Instagram influencer fame and fortune.

Emma’s story is utterly gripping - readers will come to really care for her, and find themselves urging her to make different decisions, to find a different path in life. Being an authentic kind of novel, there’s no simplistic happily ever-after-ending here, but there is a glorious sense of triumph and transformation as Emma feels a surge of enough-is-enough self-pride and vows to live a life free from male coercion; a life in which she’s in control and happy, as she deserves to be.

Joanne Owen

Other Info

Kissing Emma Synopsis

From widely acclaimed comedian and author, Shappi Khorsandi, comes a modern fable about the rise and fall of a beautiful, but vulnerable, young woman in a world obsessed with money, status and looks.

Emma and her mother are down on their luck. They're taking turns sleeping on the sofa in her nan's tiny flat - and desperately trying to come up with an escape plan. Emma is struggling with her family, struggling at school where the girls are bitchy towards her and the boys only seem to want one thing, and struggling with never having enough money for anything, ever. Just as she's contemplating quitting school to get a real job, she meets two men who convince her that she has a shot at modelling. But their motives are far from innocent, and Emma is soon pulled into a dark world. And then she meets Con, who is rich, handsome and so romantic! Has Emma's luck finally changed?

Kissing Emma is inspired by the real life and untold story of Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson's mistress. But Shappi Khorsandi's modern Emma is going to get the happy ending her namesake never did - and stick two fingers up at the men who dare to take advantage of young women while she's doing it.

Not suitable for younger readers.

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781510106994
Publication date: 02/09/2021
Publisher: Orion Children's Books an imprint of Hachette Children's Group
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781510106994
Publication date: 2nd September 2021
Author: Shappi Khorsandi
Publisher: Orion Children's Books an imprint of Hachette Children's Group
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 320 pages
Suitable for: YA readers
Genres: Family / Home Stories, Gritty Reads, Personal Social Health Economic

About Shappi Khorsandi

Shappi Khorsandi's career as a comedian and writer has taken her to all corners of the globe, appearing on stage, TV and radio including such shows as: Live At The Apollo, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Have I Got News For You, QI, The Graham Norton Show, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, and as a contestant on I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here. She is the author of the bestselling childhood memoir, A Beginner's Guide To Acting English, and the novel Nina is Not OK. She also writes regularly for the Independent.

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