Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Title:  Anna and the French Kiss
Author:  Stephanie Perkins
Publisher:  Dutton 
Genre: Contemporary YA
Hardcover: 372 pages
ISBN: 0525423273
Summary from Goodreads: 
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 Étienne St. Claire: 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?
  • Overall rating: 9/10
To buy this book: IndieBound | The Book Depository Powell's | Amazon
Add this book to your: Goodreads | Shelfari Library Thing Visual Bookshelf

Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss is blissfully romantic, sweet, and funny!  I loved so much about this book, but before I start raving about its excellence, I must make a quick confession.  It took me way too long to get around to reading Anna and the French Kiss, and I took my time in picking it up for the silliest reason ever.  I had heard so much positive buzz about it that I was afraid it could not possibly live up to the hype.  Kids, don't be like me.  Don't let glowing reviews scare you away from amazing books.  And if you don't own it already, don't wait another second before buying Anna and the French Kiss!  It is made of awesome and exceeded all of my expectations.  Also, it is under $10 at The Book Depository and Amazon right now.  Just FYI.  ;-)

What I Liked:
-     Um... all of the words on all of the pages.  Okay, I'll try to be slightly more specific...
-     I loved that the characters feel genuine.  Anna and her classmates (and former classmates and former co-workers) all have flaws and realistically complex relationships and personalities.  
-     Every character has a distinct voice.  Meredith doesn't interact with Rashmi in the same way that she interacts with St. Clair.  And St. Clair doesn't talk to Anna the same way he talks to Josh.  If you covered up the names associated with any line of dialogue on any page, I bet you could still tell exactly who said what to whom just by their distinct ways of interacting with one another.  I adore that.
-     This story is totally in harmony with its setting.  Some books have vividly drawn atmospheres, allowing readers to thoroughly immerse themselves in the sights, smells, and flavors of a particular location and time period.  Other books have richly imagined characters that pop off the pages and make readers laugh and cry along with them.  This book has both.
-     The pacing is perfect, so Anna and the reader fall in love with Étienne and Paris simultaneously.
-     Anna is such a dynamic character.  She grows and changes and learns from her mistakes and keeps moving forward right to the very last page.  Her perspective on virtually everything in her life shifts over the course of the year, but she isn't simply redefined by the person (or the place) she falls in love with.  She is still very much herself by the end of the book, just a wiser, more independent, more confident, and perhaps more forgiving version of herself.  I found her likable from start to finish, and I think she is proof that protagonists don't have to be generically good or utterly bland and static to feel like an 'every-girl' character to whom we can all relate.
-     This book is filled with tension, and not just romantic tension.  From friendships, to familial relationships, to romantic entanglements, every relationship in this book captures realistic tension and conflict.  Even her relationship with Paris itself is rich with tension and conflict.  Anna deals with jealousy, frustration, fear, and longing while navigating the streets of Paris and while navigating her increasingly complicated relationships with her old friends, new friends, family, and potential boyfriends.  I loved that she doesn't always make the easiest choices or the kindest choices, but she always makes believable choices.  I enjoyed following every step of Anna's journey from the moments of frustrated anger to the moments of impressive clarity.
-     Étienne St. Clair ... what can I say about that boy?  He is a charming and witty history buff who loves his mother.  And his sexiness doesn't depend solely upon his more obvious charms like his British accent or his perfect hair, it is in his crooked bottom teeth, his shorter-than-average stature, his tidy room full of books, the way he bites his nails, and his willingness to wear the unfashionable stocking cap that his mum knitted despite his friends' objections.  It is also in Point Zero, in his enthusiastic support of Anna's passion for films, in the way he is there for her when she needs encouragement or distraction, and in the way his eyes light up when she says his name.  I can't say for certain when he won my undying allegiance, but it may have been the moment he first said "Fo' shiz" and made me burst into laughter in the middle of a quiet room.
-     I am such a sucker for best friend romances, and this particular story has so many heart-racing flirtatious moments and so many emotionally intimate moments that it feels like watching two people fall in love in deliciously torturous slow-motion.  It is beautiful, sweet, flutter-inducing, heart-breaking, nerve-wracking... and did I mention romantic
-     The plot element that I worried could stand in the way of my being able to fully adore this book, the fact that the boy Anna loves is in a serious relationship with someone else, was handled so honestly (and so painfully) that it did not stop me from loving Étienne or from relating to Anna.
-     I loved that the end of this book is conclusive without feeling like the end of Anna's story.  Instead, it feels like a wonderful beginning.

What I Wished:
-     I wished that Stephanie Perkins had already written ten more books because Lola and the Boy Next Door (9/29/11) and Isla and the Happily Ever After (Fall 2012) seem too far away.

Anna and the French Kiss is a sweet, funny, and romantic story about friendship, growing up, and falling in love.  If you are a fan of contemporary romance or sweet coming of age stories, then you will want to check out Anna and the French Kiss.  If you would like to learn more about Anna and the French Kiss or Stephanie Perkins' upcoming companion novels, please visit her website, blog, or twitter.


Jenni Elyse said...

Yay! I'm so glad you liked it. I wanted to know if you had heard about/read it. :D

Jenni Elyse said...

PS--If you send Stephanie a tweet, she'll read your review and respond. She's really friendly and interactive. :)

Lale said...

I agree 100% with everything you wrote, though you said it a lot more fluently than me ;) And Jenni's right- Stephanie is SUPER friendly :)

Danna (Friendly Reader) said...

I loved this book too. Etienne made me want to go to France and find my own Brittish/American/French dude:) Great review!

Chachic said...

Yay, you glad you enjoyed this one! It was one of my favorite reads in 2010. :) I agree with everything that you said except for Etienne being in a relationship during his flirtation with Anna. I just got frustrated because I felt like there wasn't enough reason for him to still be with his girlfriend. Maybe it would've been better if there was more to Ellie in the story.

Violet said...

Jenni - Wasn't it a great book? I can't believe I waited so long to read it! It is definitely a contemporary YA that I will read again (and perhaps again... and again...) :)

Lale - Glad you liked Anna and the French Kiss too! Finding out that the author of a beloved book is super friendly is like icing on an awesome cake. :)

Danna - Thank you for stopping by to comment. I'm happy to hear that you loved Anna & the French Kiss too! Etienne is certainly swoon-worthy. Wonder if French boarding schools will see a dramatic increase in their enrollment numbers next year? ;)

Chachic - I can see your point regarding Etienne still dating Ellie while flirting with Anna. Honestly, I thought that part of the novel might be a deal-breaker for me too, because I do not have a lot of tolerance for cheating. I definitely wanted him to break up with Ellie from the very first moment he and Anna started to fall for one another, but I could also relate to the way he had a difficult time officially breaking up with Ellie who had been a friend and then a girlfriend for so long (especially once his mother's diagnosis entered the picture). As much as it broke my heart (and made me angry) that he stayed with Ellie for as long as he did, I really believed in the realistic nature of the way that unfolded. That first serious relationship is so difficult to close the door on, even if you've grown apart and the relationship is crumbling to pieces.

I was actually glad that Ellie did not appear in person much within the story because I think that would have made it a thousand times harder to forgive Etienne the heartache he may have been causing her while falling in love with Anna right under her nose. I definitely agree that he dealt with the situation poorly, and if he wasn't so perfect for Anna I may not have forgiven him so easily.

Book Nerds said...

I loved, loved, LOVED this book! In fact, I *just* reviewed it on my blog ( earlier this week. You are absolutely on point with your description, especially about the reading falling in love with Anna & Paris simultaneously.

Catherine said...

It's definitely a good book. Nice review :)

Easy French

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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