Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Published by Dutton Juvenile. Read in April, 2011. Copy purchased for myself.
What can I say about Anna and the French Kiss that hasn’t already been said? I mean, John Green loved it so much he couldn’t put it down, and compared it to the potential outcome if he and Maureen Johnson had babies. Lots of YA bloggers have written of the awesomeness that is Anna: Michelle loved it, as did Abby and Sarah.
Anna is about to begin her senior year of high school, but she isn’t attending in her hometown of Atlanta. Her dad made the decision to enroll her in the School of America in Paris. Thanks to Dad, she’s leaving behind her amazing best friend, her adorable little brother, an awesome job, and the amorous flirtation she’s been having with a cute guy at said job. She doesn’t even know French so she’s anxious about being that embarrassing American who can’t communicate with anyone.
Soon after she arrives, though, Anna meets a cute boy. A cute boy with a French name and a British accent who attends this American school, named Etienne St. Clair. Etienne has a girlfriend, but he does come with a group of friends who welcome Anna into their circle. Despite his girlfriend, or maybe because of her, Anna and Etienne become good friends. They say Paris is the most romantic city in the world. Is it possible to live there and ignore your attraction to your good friend?
I could not have started my spring break with a more perfect book. Anna and the French Kiss is clever, funny, and romantic. It’s not often that my stomach gets the butterflies along with a character just because a cute boy’s arm brushes up against hers. I stayed up so very late last night because I was so caught up in the story, I fell in love with Etienne right along with Anna. Ms. Perkins hits the target with her descriptions of love, longing, jealousy, tension and angst.
I loved the character of Anna. She’s smart, devoted to her brother, and unapologetic about her deep love for film. She’s insecure and anxious. She’s totally relatable and a three-dimensional character.
And Etienne…ah, Etienne. Also smart, also insecure. He’s also loyal, funny, and supportive. He’s full of love for the people he cares about, and isn’t afraid to show it.
Sometimes, an author spends so much time fleshing out the main characters that the supporting roles are left a little bland. Ms. Perkins does not fall prey to this, though. Her characters are all original and awesome, whether it’s a frequent character like Josh, Etienne’s best friend, or Matt, an old friend and ex of Anna’s whom she sees over the winter break.
My favorite part of this book is the friendship that builds between Anna and Etienne. Sometimes, romance novels focus too much on the lust and angst, and less on the foundation of a real long-term relationship. Despite the underlying attraction between the two main characters and the fact that Etienne is unavailable, they still open up to each other and develop a connection built on trust, honesty, and friendship. I wish teens had more solid examples of healthy love like this to look to, and less based on danger and instability.
Anna is about more than just romance, though. The major players all must overcome challenges in different ways, and each must depend on his or her inner strength and friends. Everyone makes mistakes, and the importance of forgiveness is a big theme in the novel.
Did I mention that the novel takes place in Paris? Ms. Perkins describes Paris as this magical city of delicious street food and dog-loving theater-owners. I loved getting to travel there and experience it with Anna.
Anna and the French Kiss is perfect. I cannot recommend it enough, and it is safe to say it will be a 2011 favorite for me.