August 24, 2012

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Published: 2010, Dutton Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Library book

How many times can our emotions be tied to someone else's - be pulled and stretched and twisted - before they snap? Before they can never be mended again?

So I caved and read Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss. I'm not really into all things France (I'm a Spanish culture and language type of girl), and I tend to avoid books where the focus seems to be on romance. But it seems like everyone has read this book and enjoyed it. I have yet to see a review, meme, or something else mentioning this book with even a slight hint of negativity. I was seeking some good books to take on vacation and was curious to see what all the hype was about. And, yes, I agree that the hype is correct.

Anna's plans for the upcoming year involve spending lots of time with her best friend Bridgette, working at the local movie theater, turning her crush into a relationship, and enjoying her final year in Atlanta before college. What she does not anticipate is spending her senior year at the elite boarding school SOAP, the School of America in Paris. But that's where her father, a famous writer, decides to send her. Now Anna is coping with culture shock, finding new friends, and the grief that she's thousands of miles away from her best friend and almost-boyfriend. Enter Meredith, Rashmi, Josh, and Etienne St. Clair. They adopt Anna into their group, and Anna must learn to deal with conflicting feelings for both Toph and Etienne, who already has a girlfriend.

Anna is such an adorable protagonist. I completely emphasized with the range of emotions she endures throughout the novel as she comes to realize that one by one all the plans and expectations she has for her life are falling apart. While I would not consider her to be a super strong character, she's so incredibly relatable. I think that if I was faced with similar situations, my responses would be the exact same. I totally would have been the one to eat lunch in the bathroom if I didn't have anyone to sit with. I also would have been the one to get food from the self-serve menu because I'd be too afraid that I wouldn't be able to actually order food in French. She's not perfect but she's a good person trying to deal with all the unplanned aspects of her life. And I love her passion for films. I'm glad that Anna actually has some definite interests; in lots of books I don't think I could even tell you the protagonist's hobbies.

While not all of the characters are particularly well-defined, I enjoyed everything that I did learn about them. I really wish I could have been part of Anna's friend group; they all seem like great friends. Anna's school "rival" is the completely contrived mean girl. Her best friend Bridgette and crush Toph from home also come off as rather flat. But hey - I'm not going to complain about this. I interpreted this book as a character study that completely revolved around Anna and Etienne, and it painted very successful portraits of both those characters.

Of course I loved the relationship that develops between Anna and Etienne. I'm especially a fan of the fact that in a book like this the relationship could have very easily have been insta-love, but it's not. There's true depth to Anna and Etienne's relationship. I get the feeling that Perkins was really trying to make Etienne a bit of an anomaly: the drop-dead gorgeous boy who has substance. And she does. But honestly if I was to complain, it would be that he doesn't need to be super attractive. That's not what drew me to his character, nor what drew in Anna (after she got to know him better as a person, that is). Both of them have major issues they're dealing with, yet they're able to rely on each other to confront their problems. By being together, they're both able to mature and become more confident in themselves. Not everything is easy for Anna or for Etienne, for that matter but I think this book is a classic example of how through persistence and struggle, things will work out in the end. And who doesn't like to read books like that every once in a while? Reading about relationships like this always makes me happy.

Yes, there are parts of Anna and the French Kiss that could have been better. But I honestly didn't care while reading it. It is light chick-flick fare and doesn't try to be anything other than that. Sometimes that's all I want out of my books. This was a perfect vacation read. From what I've heard, I think that I'd clash with Lola from Lola and the Boy Next Door, but I will definitely read Isla and the Happily Ever After once it's published.
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.

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