Saturday, December 4, 2010

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins

Title: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin Group USA)
Release Date: December 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 372
How I Got It: Bought the hardcover


ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS takes me back to my visits to Paris - the city of romance - and this book certainly has that.  Young adult romance books are all about discovering who you are, what you want, who you want to be with, and how that impacts everything you think about yourself and your path in life. They're great for escapism and hope and entertainment, and this book has all of that. In her debut novel, Perkins has tapped into the adolescent hope and drama of first loves and crushes and developing relationships in a realistic way. It's a cute book that takes place in a great setting making me want to go back to visit Paris and see all of the specific places the author mentions along with just the feeling of being there in that city - it's like a guidebook for living in Paris and makes me want to do so. It is a book with real characters who have highs and lows and family problems and friendship problems and relationship problems and screw things up and have to work to fit it all back together again. It's a book with light-heartedness and some deeper emotional issues all wrapped up in a fun book. It's a book that deals with adolescent hopes and desires and fickleness and friendships and changes and confusions and first loves and kisses - all while remaining appropriate for a wide audience - who will be able to read it and relate to the realness of the emotions and communication breakdowns and misunderstandings of these teens.


Anna, a great and entertaining narrator, is sent off to boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school. She has a crush and a best friend and a brother and mom back home who she doesn't want to leave, but her father isn't giving her an option. When she gets to school in Paris, as the new girl (who doesn't speak a bit of French) in a senior class of only 25, she feels lost and lonely. Then she meets some key people and starts to make friends, and develops a major crush on the cute English/American/French classmate, accented and cute, Etienne St. Clair. Only one problem: he has a girlfriend. The book's story unravels over the course of the school year as Anna and Etienne grow to become really good friends through long talks about things they may not share with anyone else. There are starts and stops and near misses along the bumpy road of their developing relationship, ending in a climatic moment on top of the Notre Dame Cathedral where all of their truths come out. 


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and taking this journey with Anna, Etienne, and their friends.  Although some events throughout were a bit predictable, the setting and the deeply developed characters adding a unique aspect to this story that kept me engaged. The book portrays the realistic young adult "does he like me or not" drama of so many adolescent thoughts. I appreciated that Anna and Etienne were both complex characters who developed a true friendship as they fell for each other - instead of just a love at first sight thing that didn't make any sense. In the scenes when it was just the two of them talking, it was easy to see why those conversations led to the deep relationship that developed for the two of them.  It's ultimately a book about being honest about your feelings and knowing that it isn't as important where you are as much as who you are with that matters the most in making you feel at home.


4 STARS for ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS
I look forward to reading the two companion books that Stephanie Perkins is writing:
Lola and the Boy Next Door (Fall 2011) & Isla and the Happily Ever After (Fall 2012)

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