Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Thursday, November 24, 2011
Genre: young-adult, general fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 372 (hardcover edition)
Published: December 2010
Rating: 4.5/5

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, √Čtienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.
There are some novels that are so good you have to draw them out, as a reader. You must eke out every page, every minute to savor the experience to the last little bit, until it's over, all too soon. Then there are other books, just as good, that compel you to finish, even resist even being put down for life's necessities. The latter is how I felt about Anna and the French Kiss (I walked around my house with my nose in the book and banged into several pieces of furniture while doing out) - I was ensnared within the first page. Stephanie Perkin's effervescent first-novel is one of the most charming pieces of young-adult realistic fiction I've had the fortune to come across in some time.

Anna Oliphant was breath of fresh air. I loved her vivacity, her enthusiasm for film, her flawed relationships with nearly everyone, and especially her everpresent sense of humor. I knew from the first page, first paragraph,
"Here is everything I know about France: Madeline and Amelie and Moulin Rouge. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, although I have no idea what the function of either actually is. Napoleon, Marie Antoinette and a lot of Kings named Louis." 
I was amused. I even sniggered. ON THE FIRST PAGE. This was one novel I knew from that alone, would meet my high expectations propped up by a year and a half of hype. I can't limit myself, here are my other favorite quotes from the Atlanta native:
"...and no one will invite me to watch the mimes escape from their invisible boxes, or whatever it is people do here in their spare time."
and
"Who sends their kids to boarding school? It's so Hogwarts. Only mine doesn't have cute boy wizards or magic candy or flying lessons."

Anna is witty, flawed and just plain fun to read for nearly 400 pages of novel. I was happy it was a first-person, one POV novel and Anna shone in the starring role. She pops from the page with life and flair, and total individuality. From her very real, very rounded personality to external pressures in Anna's life (parents acrimonious divorce, a fractious relationship with her father) this is a character that will resonate (and already has) with a multitude of readers. I liked Anna's relationships with other characters a great deal: these girls actually like one another! It's refreshing to read healthy, valid relationships between female friends - especially teenage ones.

Ms. Perkins doesn't hoard all her talent and life only for her main character, happily. From love-interest Etienne to friends like Meredith and Rashmi and enemies like Dave, most of the people in the novel are well-rounded, flawed human beings. Etienne, one of the few YA love-interests that has genuinely caught my eye, is just as flawed, interesting, damaged as his female counterparts: not all detail or information about him is centered on his great hair and dreamy English accent. He's one of the few out there worthy of fandom and bookcrushes. I did wish he'd manned up a bit sooner with his situation - I hate romantic procrastination for it leads to gamesplaying (though he is innocent of that last bit to be fair) - but I loved his interactions with Anna for the entire book. I thoroughly enjoyed a novel that took the time to create a real friendship/foundation for two love-interests instead of just throwing them at each other and expecting sizzle. It's also worth noting that Anna doesn't hone in and focus solely on the American-born, French-named, English-toned sex magnet: Anna dates around, is attracted to others . . . basically: Etienne is not the end-all, be-all of Anna's social or even romantic life.

Paris. Ah, Paris - I have to admit it is one of the most perfect locations there could be for such a novel about young-love, unrequited love and the meaning of home. While I do wish the City of Lights had been explored more and been featured more prominently in Anna's year at School of America in Paris, what is shown is marvelous. Ms. Perkin's charming style easily extends to her locales and even from a novel, one could fall in love with her version of the famous city. It was just beautifully enfolded within Anna's life, a change of pace heralding her more international style soon to come. I also appreciated the fact that Anna didn't immediately fall in love with gay Paree - some resentment over her enforced move is to be expected and would've been unrealistic had it been lacking. However, once Anna gets over her anger and ventures to love the iconic city, it shines as one of the best parts of the novel.

Simply put, Anna and the French Kiss is a charming, easy-to-read, reluctant-to-finish read. The humor, the flawed but utterly likeable characters, the gorgeous setting all make for a novel that will hold appeal for all ages of reader. It will make you smile, laugh, and maybe even despair a little for the desperation of young -but true - love.

4 comments:

  1. I saw on Goodreads that you were reading this and I couldn't wait until you had your review up so I could see what you thought of it. I absolutely ADORED it. I still need to read Lola and the Boy Next Door. I know it's going to be great!

    I am SO glad you loved it. =) Don't worry, I ran into some furniture while reading this book as well! I also tripped on one of my 8 month old's toys! Ouch!

    I wanted to stay up all night to read it, and nearly did! Ha!

    Great review! Can't wait to see what you think of Lola!

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  2. I was shocked by just how charmed I was! I knew it was good and that people loved it, but Stephanie Perkins is a very good author! I'm getting my hands on Lola the next paycheck I get hahaha!

    I will probably even pull an all nighter like you did with it. I'm also looking forward to Isla and the Happily Ever after!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Everyone has raved about this novel so despite the name and cover, I clearly need to give it a try!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, ignore those two elements and focus on the utter charm and fun.

    ReplyDelete

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