Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


Anna is 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. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

I don't read much contemporary YA which is something I decided to remedy this last month. I saw so many people raving about this book in particular that I decided to start with it. The basic premise is full of conflict - Anna's forced to attend a private school in Paris instead of the perfect year she had planned in her beloved Atlanta. Back home she had a job, the perfect best friend in Bridgette and budding romance with Toph. Because her dad has become a best-selling novelist their circumstances have changed and he's keen to broaden her horizons.

I was so caught up in this book from the first page. Anna's voice is spot-on perfect, loveable despite her obvious upset of being left on her own in a strange city. She doesn't speak French and knows no one whilst everyone else have been together for years. However, she doesn't sound whiny just lost and vulnerable which is a tricky balancing act. She soon meets Meredith, Rashmi, Josh and Etienne and although not everyone makes her feel instantly welcome I loved watching her friendship with these guys grow as the book progressed. Etienne is a pretty cool guy, kind to Anna and obviously loyal to his friends. He has a girlfriend who also used to be part of their close-knit gang but she's moved to another school in Paris and this puts a strain on their relationship. To be fair to both Anna and Etienne they try to keep their relationship on the level but as the months fly by it's clear that there's more going on than it appears.

The breaking point is Christmas and I loved how this period apart really changed their relationship. Anna has been hanging on to relationships at home, Etienne's mum is ill and he's been desperate to see her and they both have to spend time with their divorced parents. They exchange emails and phone calls that illustrate how much they have in common and how close they've become. Back in Paris their relationship is hot and cold, push and pull. I wanted to reach into the pages and shake them.

Aside from all of this, the hot and cold relationship and the will-they-won't-they shenanigans I haven't even touched on the amazing emotional journey that Anna goes on. To begin with she's too scared to approach the chef at school so spends her time eating apples and bread. However, she loves films and soon discovers that Paris is full of cinemas. She sets herself the task of learning how to ask for one ticket in French. Eventually she's ordering food, a coffee connoisseur and travelling across the city with confidence. I think it's this, alongside the friendships and relationships that make this book so wonderful.

After reading Anna and the French Kiss I will read anything that Stephanie Perkins writes. Lola and the Boy Next Door is first on my wish list!


Vivienne said...

I remember the hype about this one, but never got around to reading it. You have definitely made me want to pick it up now.

Jenni (Juniper's Jungle) said...

I've seen some great reviews of this, glad that you loved it too.

Helen Peters said...

Great review - you really capture what makes this book work so well. I loved it too. The only thing that jarred slightly for me was Etienne's slightly odd use of English idiom.

Clover said...

So many reviews focus on the romance element of it, but I also really liked Anna's personal journey too! :)

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf said...

I really enjoyed this one. I read it because of all the great comments it got. And I while I can take a bit of romance in my books, it was everything else that Perkins put in to this one that made it for me.

As you say, Anna's journey was one element, as was the freindship between the main group of characters, and the way the side streets of Paris paid a part.