Also by this author: Lola and the Boy Next Door, Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3), There's Someone Inside Your House
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
Also in this series: Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)
Published by Speak on August 4th 2011
Pages: 372 •Goodreads
Can Anna find love in the City of Light?
Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she's not too pleased when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new friends, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he's taken--and Anna might be too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she's been waiting for?
“How many times can our emotions be tied to someone else’s – be pulled and stretched and twisted – before they snap? Before they can never be mended again?”
Anna and the French Kiss was a book that I’ve been hearing about in the YA contemporary genre for years. It sounded fluffy, and the cover was so cute yet so cheesy, that I never felt motivated enough to add it to my pile when book buying. Recently the series received a cover-redesign which is absolutely gorgeous, and this coupled with the rave reviews of Isla and the Happily Ever after convinced me to take the plunge and invest in the Anna and the French Kiss series, and I haven’t looked back since.
This book had one of the most authentic teen voices that I’ve read in a contemporary YA novel in a long time. Perkins does a fantastic job at making her teenagers feel like real teenagers, and not stereotypical and typecasted and obviously-written-by-an-adult-who-only-marginally-remembers-what-it’s-like-to-be-a-teenager. Anna was giddy and awkward and sassy and full of life and experienced such a range of emotions that had me reminiscing on how crazy a ride high school can be. Even the drama was well-penned, and rather than rolling my eyes I felt my heart ache for the characters because I remembered how devastating unrequited crushes and backstabbing friends and stolen glances could be. Anna’s friends all felt like authentic teenagers too, from the bickering couple to the aspiring band members to the flirtatious yet taken guys.
Speaking of guys, it’s a predominant theme throughout the novel that Anna is going to fall in love with a boy in Paris. Readers know it’s inevitable, and the beauty of this book is that it doesn’t rush that experience, rather it puts Anna and St.Clair’s friendship through its paces, through all of the messy, complicated stages that lead to admitting your feelings for someone, and then dealing with the fallout. St.Clair himself was a frustrating character much of the time, and at many points I just wanted to shake him and give him a good talking too, but he is a seventeen year old boy, and by the end of the novel it was rewarding to see him grow into himself.
And the setting. It was impossible not to fall in love with this book based solely upon the fact that I could daydream about being in school abroad right alongside Anna. I wanted her cozy little dorm room with its perpetually open window. I coveted the fresh food and the evening walks to the cinemas through the Latin quarter. I envied that their was so much history waiting to be discovered whenever she chose to reach. Anna’s time in Paris is captivating because she indulges in the major tourist spots, but readers also get to see her friends help her explore a more intimate side of Paris, the quieter, more magical side of living abroad and immersing oneself in another culture, and getting to create a new identity. It was all so very charming. I also enjoyed getting to follow Anna back home to Atlanta for her winter break, and to see how her personality has shifted and her expectations changed after having the experience of living on her own abroad. It feels very similar to a the narrative of young adults returning home from college, and realizing how much they’ve changed only after they’ve returned to their roots.
The downside? That one last star is lacking for a few reasons that weren’t enough to seriously put a damper on my overall reading experience. Firstly, I felt that the “bully” Amanda was written in a very formulaic fashion. She’s pretty and has lots of friends, and instantly harasses the new girl. On top of that, she keeps making advances toward St.Clair when he’s blatantly rude to her and disapproving of her behavior. She’s an oblivious, catty, placeholder of a character who is used to drive the plot along, a generic bully, and I was a little surprised by her because I felt that Perkins did such a great job writing all of her other teenage characters. Secondly, while I overall found the book to be charming, I often disliked the way St.Clair treated Anna. I know that high school is often a time before girls are 100% confident in their self-value and self worth and guys are fumbling their way through the dating scene as well, but I felt that some of the stuff St.Clair did (along the lines of leading Anna on) was way unfair to both Ellie and Anna, and I felt that he was only marginally called out for his behavior considering all of the angst that it caused Anna (and that sort of behavior is really distracting in high school). Alas, high school is not usually one’s best representation of moral standards and self esteem, so I hope to see them grow into stronger individuals during their appearances in the next two books in the series.
Overall: Anna and the French Kiss was not only a gorgeous addition to my bookshelf, but also a charming contemporary that explored all of the angst and joy of high school relationships. It felt authentically written and dealt with teenage drama realistically, and the Parisian setting added a fun layer and different perspective to the contemporary romance. This is a great book for readers who want to see relationships develop through all of the rough and real stages, who love a sweet setting in a boarding school abroad, and who want a relateable protagonist who is a little awkward, a little OCD, and a lot of fun.