I am currently reading the second book in this young adult romance series by Stephanie Perkins which is called Lola and the Boy Next Door (2011). However, since I am not quite finished with that one yet I thought I would write a review of its predecessor, Anna and the French Kiss (2010) which I read a few months ago.
What is the book about?
Anna and the French Kiss is a love story set in Paris. Anna Oliphant is uprooted from her life in Atlanta where she has almost pegged down her potential boyfriend to be sent off to a boarding school in a different country. She is scared. She is intimidated by a city she knows nothing about and worried about having to learn French. But then she meets a new group of friends: Meredith, Rashmi, Josh…and St. Clair. Yes, the insanely gorgeous Étienne St. Clair, the boy who was born in America, raised in England and goes to school in Paris. And isn’t it the capital of romance? But, wait, Anna didn’t come here to fall in love. Did she?
Stephanie Perkins writes in such an uplifting and exciting style. Her stories are fun and eventful, they perfectly relay how fast paced life can feel when your young and how sometimes you don’t have time to think, you just do. The irrational thoughts and uncontrollable emotions. The feeling when something bad happens it’s the end of the world when really (and I know it’s a cliché) it’s just the beginning.
I think it’s fair to say this book portrays a realistic representation of teen romance (although, the whole thing about being sent off to Paris and meeting an attractive British-American-French boy may be the subject of our wildest dreams). But, the way Perkin’s constructs the story around this main idea is very realistic.
From the way Anna initially forms a friendship with St. Clair and has to deal with the issue of liking someone who already has a girlfriend, to the way St. Clair’s friends react to Anna and how she gradually becomes part of the group.
Also the way things play out back in her home town, like her previous relationship with best friend/boyfriend Matt and her thoughts on his new girlfriend, Cherrie, as well as all the drama surrounding Toph (her potential Atlanta boyfriend).
Life isn’t perfect all the time, if it’s ever perfect at all.
Paris is the perfect location for a story like this. The wonderful descriptions of French landmarks, petite French patisseries and walks along the Seine. Perkins really takes the reader to France, capturing the atmosphere of a hustle-bustle city by day and a romantic landscape by night.
At first it took me a while to get into it, but I think that’s because I was just as clueless about Paris as Anna was. I had to find my footing in a country with a very different feel, culture and mood. The descriptions of Paris were beautiful and as Anna becomes more comfortable surrounded by the Parisian landscape, so do we.
Perkins introduces us to such so many exciting characters, some which also pop up in the other two books in this series and they are memorable enough for this to work. They are loud and full of life. They are interesting and you care what happens to them. Perkins feeds so much emotion into her characters that the events in her books seem so much more real.
“My characters are tied to Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco, D.C., London, and Paris” – Stephanie Perkins
In an interview for the Barnes & Noble book blog in 2014, Perkins explained how across this series of books her “characters are tied to Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco, D.C., London, and Paris.” Of what I have read of this series so far, I really get a sense that each of the characters circumstances lead them towards the person they need the most at that particular moment in their lives.
Like in Anna and the French Kiss, I think that this group of friends was always supposed to meet and we get to find out what happens when they do.
I thought Anna was going to be one of those cliché awkward girls, but as I read more I found her character to be funny and truthful. It the start of the book she is very nervous at the prospect of living on her own.
And finally, I simply must talk about Étienne St. Clair. He is every girl’s dream boy. At first, Anna just thinks he’s hot. Then, as the book continues, we get to know him as a caring guy but who is also only human. He make mistakes, feels guilt and tries to make a better person of himself. As we all do. I found this to be such an endearing character trait. He develops into a stronger person throughout the story.
This book is an upbeat contemporary with a happy ending that will leave you smiling. You will definitely find yourself ordering the second book in the series.
I hope I am not the only one who thinks this book would make a delightful film. I think the setting of Paris differentiates it that little bit more from other young adult romances. I would also love to see who would be cast in the main roles.
I am going to give this book 5/5 stars.