Sunday, September 18, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss
By Stephanie Perkins 
Publisher: Dutton
Date Published: December 2, 2010

     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 deny that I was initially wary of reading this one. Everything from the title to the cover to the plot to the characters to the setting seemed to radiate cheesiness. Anna and the French Kiss seemed But I was completely, utterly wrong and I'm extremely glad that I was.

I finally gave in and picked Anna up at the library after reading more rave reviews from other online bloggers. What exactly was it about this book that had everyone else swooning? I still can't exactly say, but something- or everything- just works. It was fantastic. 

Perkin's writing is fluid and engaging; after the first couple of chapters I couldn't put the book down. I might have devoured this in one weekend instead of starting my college applications-Shh! She put such care into the characters- Anna and Etienne especially- and I found myself invested in Anna, Etienne, and their group of friends. While I thought some of the supporting characters were lacking, I didn't mind because I was completely captivated by Anna and Etienne the entire time. And the setting! I don't think this novel would have been as effective if the story took place anywhere else besides Paris. It didn't feel like Perkins was forcing the plot and her characters into the setting, as some authors often do, Paris being the "City of Love."  

Maybe Anna works because everything feels natural. The setup isn't exactly anything new or groundbreaking- new girl travels to a foreign country, meets boy, they fall in love- but I appreciated that the entire journey felt realistic. Anna and Etienne's relationship developed gradually and I felt every high and every low they went through. As Anna fell in love with Etienne, I also fell in love with him. I'm quite tired of recent YA books that seem to force the romance and push for an immediate "love at first sight" angle. This novel was such a refreshing break to that trend and presented a love story that I could really believe in. The dialogue was also witty and I believed that these words could come out of the mouths of a bunch of teens.

I don't think I can write a review that will do this book any justice. Anna and the French Kiss seems to perfectly capture that feeling of falling in love and while it was not flawless, it's one of the best YA books I've read this year. I was hoping that I would be able to contain myself from finishing it today because I just didn't want it to end, but paradoxically I couldn't stop reading. I think it's always the ones that surprise you that stay with you the most. I could keep going on and on about this book, but I recommend that you read it yourself as soon as possible. I'm not looking forward to returning Anna to the library, but I'm sure I'll get my hands on my own copy soon for gazillions of rereads to come.