30 January 2014

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta.  She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection.  So she's not too pleased when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.  But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new friends, including the handsome Etienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend.  Unfortunately, he's taken -- and Anna might be, too.  Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she's been waiting for?
My arm was cramping.  My butt was numb -- both cheeks, and half my hip as well.  My foot fell asleep twice.  But even when my bladder felt like a water balloon filled to capacity, I did not let myself move from my bed until I finished this book.

I picked it up at my favorite bargain bookstore because so many people had told me that I was missing out on something amazing.  Quite honestly, I scoffed at them all.  Seriously?  A book called "Anna and the French Kiss"?  It sounded like one long horribly fluffy, melodramatic spit exchange hosted in a shoddily described setting populated by characters that were as superficial as they were uncultured.

Oh, how learning teaches you how foolish you are.

After one or two false starts -- really, I didn't give it an honest start until yesterday -- I committed to reading it.  Actually, I picked it up because two friends of mine were chatting about anime (not my area) and I was bored.  And then, while the chatter of dubbed versus subtitled faded into a hum, I was suddenly not bored at all.

I was wary at first about Anna.  She seemed, from the get-go, the kind of girl who flipped out over insignificant things and who conveniently captures the attention of the hottest boy -- the hottest British boy -- in her school on day one.  While the second statement is true, only half of the first statement is.  Anna did freak out over stuff when I thought she should just chill.  I didn't really relate to her much except about being in a new place and all the uncertainty that goes with it.  But I cheered for her character, even when she was being so stupid about everything that I wanted to punch her repeatedly.  I am not one to abide the beating-around-the-bush not-know-exactly-where-we-stand kind of nonsense.  Anna did.  A lot.  But during these moments, even when I wanted to slap her, I felt sorry for her, and that means I cared about her.

There wasn't anything overly surprising about the plot.  I had seen it all before and knew, for the most part, how things would progress.  However, I still enjoyed it, because I liked the characters.  Even though Etienne St. Clair seemed way too good to be true practically from page one. With one major flaw.  He did not say "love" once in the entire novel.  This is not okay from a beautiful British boy. NOT OKAY.  I liked the romance, though, because even though it was cliche, it was grounded firmly in a friendship.  As well it should be.  It would have been a major turnoff had it been an instalove.

I'm glad that Stephanie Perkins took a careful hand at crafting the rich and delightful atmosphere of Paris as much as she did with her characters.  Her writing style was simple with subtle flourishes and even her excessive use of exclamation marks in prose added, and did not detract, to how I enjoyed Anna's internal dialogue.

I am so glad I picked up Anna and the French Kiss.  It now sits happily on my shelves.  I would highly recommend this as a spring or summer read but it also made a highly effective midwinter read, because it got me solidly out of my reading slump.  Thank you, Stephanie Perkins.

Book Info
  • pages - paperback, 372
  • published - August 2011
  • publisher - Speak
  • genre - contemporary
  • received via - Half Price Books
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Anna and the French Kiss
    • Anna and the French Kiss
    • Lola and the Boy Next Door
    • Isla and the Happily Ever After