By Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
Published by Dutton Juvenile
on 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 Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.
But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?
I have heard so many good things about this book, but never really thought I’d read it because I don’t tend to read much contemporary YA. After attending the Ottawa book bloggers meet up earlier this month, though, and seeing that people were so passionate about contemporary YA, I decided that it’s high time I move out of my comfort zone and give some contemporary reads a try.
Now I’m just embarrassed that it took me so darn long to read this book, because I absolutely loved it! It was sweet, funny, and I fell in love with the characters and the setting.
I love, love, love the boarding school as a setting for YA stories. It gives rise to conflict, building and strengthening (or testing) relationships and friendships, and lets the characters experience all kinds of funny hijinks and mischief (just think of the Harry Potter and Gemma Doyle series). And this one is in Paris, of all places! What’s not to love about that!
The characters were likeable and throughout the novel, the reader learns, as does Anna, that her friends are all working through their own issues. There were struggles with: maintaining and ending relationships; problems with controlling or distant parents; and major decisions regarding the future after senior year.
Anna was a nice, normal girl (well, as normal as a girl who is sent to a boarding school for Americans in Paris can be!), and I loved watching Anna slowly learn her way around both the city of Paris and the French language. As someone who took French Immersion all through high school (but is by no means fluent!), I got a kick out of Anna’s attempts to avoid having to speak any French at first.
Then there’s Etienne St. Clair, the love interest. I can see why he is swoon-worthy: the accent, the fabulous hair, the easy-going personality. But what I also liked about Etienne was that he was flawed – he wasn’t made out to be this perfect guy (just a ridiculously good-looking one!) – at least, not the more Anna gets to know him.
I struggle a lot with romance aspects of stories (not just YA). I hate cheesy dialogue and clichés, and I can’t help but roll my eyes when I read about characters who feel inexplicably drawn to each other and are ready to die for each other (in many cases, feeling this way despite barely knowing each other). This goes for movies and television too, not just books. And it isn’t that I’m not a romantic, because I love my husband, and I love romance in my own life, but so often when I read about it, it comes across as so melodramatic and over the top that I just can’t believe it or feel invested in the characters’ relationship.
This book, though, surprised me. While there were some clichés, I think that the romance felt real. It wasn’t rushed, it was equally confusing and exciting for the characters, and their actions felt true to who they were. There were no life and death situations, no end-of-the-world obstacles, just ‘real’ people dealing with their emotions (not always dealing with them well, but then again, that’s pretty realistic too!).
I don’t do much re-reading, since I want to read All The Books and feel like I don’t have time to revisit many books, but this is one that I want to buy so that I can read it again and again (I borrowed this copy from the library). It felt like a total comfort read, and I loved the ending. I only wish there was more of Anna and Etienne’s story to read!
I think this book has changed my mind on contemporary YA and romance. I’m certainly interested in reading more by Stephanie Perkins, and I definitely recommend this book!