Valentina Cruz no longer exists.
One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind.
She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real.
She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.
Tell Me More: How do we define ourselves when what we know to be true is taken from us? How do we shape the pieces that have fallen to the ground into something new? Do we even want to? Jessica Martinez’s new novel and protagonist are driven by those questions into a surprising, but very much earned conclusion.
The Valentina Cruz that meets the reader is a shade of her former self–or so she thinks. Her escape from Miami and the loss of her privilege shadows her, the only joy in her life the few hours spent in a chocolate shop practicing the mandolin. It’s fairly easy to guess the truth behind what Valentina witnessed and what drove her away from Miami and her family, but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story. Martinez’s writing style gives Valentina room to own her story, ugly bits and all.
Much of it is ugly. She is 17 years old, a girl used to easy accomplishments and rewards. Some readers may struggle with Valentina’s characterization, because it isn’t easy to relate to. Tired as the metaphor might be, it is a lot like falling through a frozen lake: Valentina had lived her life confident in the ground beneath her feet, but the truth of her father’s work was always present, the sinister undercurrent that, once encountered, ended up choking her enough to make her run. And so she runs, and she complains, and she pines for Emilio, the boy who’d charmed her and her father enough to be the person they both depended on.
Martinez doesn’t quite completely adapt a love triangle, but does use a bit of that foundation. Where Emilio represents the life Valentina wants desperately to return to, but doesn’t understand, Marcel represents the life Valentina does have. Marcel’s stark attitude is a delicious contrast to Emilio’s emotional appeals, and as the book goes on, both of them point out the parts of Valentina that they believe define her. But instead of sinking into those definitions, Valentina makes her own choices, and watching her grow into herself is extremely satisfying.
The Final Say: Kiss Kill Vanish is an intimate and intense novel, with a female protagonist who is never as weak as she’s made to believe. Readers looking for a character-driven story interlaced with suspense will greatly enjoy Jessica Martinez’s newest offering.
Jessica Martinez is the author of young adult novels Virtuosity, The Space Between Us, The Vow, and Kiss Kill Vanish. She was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. As a child she played the violin, read books, and climbed trees incessantly. She went on to study English and music at Brigham Young University, and since then has been an English teacher, a symphony violinist, and a mother. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and three children.