Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and  the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
2010 | 372 pages | Young Adult

Though I saw a lot of reviews of Anna and the French Kiss in various blogs when I started getting ready to jump into the Kidlitosphere back in December, I will admit that I didn't decide to read it until I saw John Green's tweet of December 7th, which said: "Just finished ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, an engrossing and amazingly romantic novel by nerdfighter @naturallysteph SO GOOD." As I knew he wouldn't, John did not lead me astray. This book was dramatic, sweet, funny, and above all, romantic.

Anna Oliphant is stuck spending her senior year at an American school in Paris, because her dad thinks it will be a good opportunity. Despite her fears about not speaking French, living on her own, and being away from her best friend, Anna is lucky enough to fall in with a solid group of new friends. Among these new-found companions is the troubled, unattainable, English-born, American-bred Etienne St. Clair. St. Clair and Anna have a very strong connection from the start, which only grows stronger as time wears on. Things are complicated, though, by St. Clair's controlling father, his puzzling relationship with girlfriend Ellie, and the fact that one of Anna's new friends has been lusting after him for years. This book is a wonderful romance filled with every kind of emotion, and written in a fresh, breezy style reminiscent of high school cafeteria chatter.

I am kind of a sucker for a good YA romance, so I expected to enjoy this book, but I loved it even more than I anticipated. St. Clair is that troubled, vulnerable boy that teen girls find so appealing, and Anna's thoughts and feelings reminded me of myself at seventeen.

I found the present tense narration to be kind of difficult to follow at first, but once I fell into Anna's voice, I actually liked it, for the sense of immediacy it gave me. I liked being in the moment with Anna, especially in those moments when sparks first began to fly between her and St. Clair.

I also thought the author's dialogue was really well-written and very real. For example, in the conversation below Anna complains about her father to her friend Bridget over the phone:

I hear the weary smile in her voice. "Why'd you move away again, Banana?"
"Because my father is made of suck."
"The purest strain, dude."

I could hear this exchange in my mind as well as I can remember actual conversations I have had. These sound like real teenagers.

I also laughed out loud at so many little one-liners throughout the story. My favorite is Rashmi's characterization of old movies.

"The acting is so 'Hey buddy, ol pal. Let's go wear our hats and have a big misunderstanding.'"(p. 73)

That's just clever.

And because it's a romance, no review would be complete without an example of some of that wonderful romantic tension, which Stephanie Perkins writes so deliciously.

It's odd, but I keep finding myself distracted. By the white of his teeth through the darkness. By a wavy bit of his hair that sticks straight out to the side. By the soft aroma of his laundry detergent. He nudges me to silently offer the armrest, but I decline and he takes it. His arm is close to mine, slightly elevated. I glance at his hands. Mine are tiny compared to his large, knuckly boy hands.

And suddenly, I want to touch him.

Not a push, or a shove, or even a friendly hug. I want to feel the creases in his skin, connect his freckles with invisible lines, brush my fingers across the inside of his wrist. He shifts. I have the strangest feeling that he's as aware of me as I am of him. I can't concentrate. The characters on the screen are squabbling,  but for the life of me, I don't know what about. How long have I not been paying attention? (p.79)

Any girl who's gone on a date to the movies knows exactly what that feels like.

For romance fans, this book is a guaranteed hit. I also think it will appeal to anyone who liked Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes, which also involves immersion in a foreign culture, or to those who like the writing style of folks like Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti. Loved it. Can't wait for the companion novels to be published!

I purchased Anna and the French Kiss for my Nook from Barnes &

1 comment :

  1. Sounds lovely and fun! The only thing I don't buy is a smart teenager NOT being thrilled about spending a year in Paris!!!


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